At the beginning of this week, the Austrian government, led by Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP), imposed draconian nationwide lockdown restrictions exclusively for its unvaccinated citizens.
The lockdown, which comes amid the latest surge of COVID-19 cases, seeks to alleviate pressure on the country’s overburdened hospitals and intensive care units. Under the new measures, which began this Monday, those aged twelve and older who aren’t vaccinated are prohibited from leaving their homes except for so-called “essential activities” like working, buying groceries, exercising, or attending classes, Kronen Zeitung reports.
Presently, roughly 20% of Austria’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds are filled with COVID-19 patients. The government says that, through the new lockdown measures, it seeks to avoid a situation where more than 30% of its ICU beds are occupied with COVID-19 patients.
“We all have one goal: to protect the intensive care units,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said during a press conference on Sunday.
At the same press conference, Chancellor Schallenberg lamented that his government had to resort to such measures, noting that the country has enough vaccines stockpiled to provide everyone with a third jab.
“It’s our job as the government of Austria to protect the people,” he said. “Therefore we decided that starting Monday … there will be a lockdown for the unvaccinated.”
The chancellor, ignoring the fact that fully vaccinated individuals can still contract and transmit the COVID-19 virus to others, did his best to justify the lockdown, saying that “he did not want the two-thirds of vaccinated Austrians to be forced to face the same lockdown as the unvaccinated.”
Also speaking on the lockdown, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) said that measures will be enforced by police on an “unprecedented scale.” Those who break the rules risk fines of up to 1,450 euros.
Meanwhile, the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) continues to strongly oppose blanket measures and lockdowns. In response to the government’s announcement, FPÖ leader Herbert Kickl called for an anti-lockdown demonstration in Vienna on Saturday.
Austria is now has a “corona apartheid system,” wrote Kickl on Facebook. He also announced that a lawsuit had been filed a the Constitutional Court which accuses the government of disregarding fundamental rights and freedoms.
The nationwide lockdown will initially last for 10 days and is expected to impact roughly two million of Austria’s nine million residents.