The situation is fluid, but one thing is clear: Austria’s imposition of lockdowns shows that after five months of the EU’s Green Pass, the Covid-19 virus is far from under control.
The population of Austria began this week (Nov. 15) waking up to yet another Covid-19 lockdown – but with a difference: this one was for only a sub-section of the population, albeit a very large one: the unvaccinated. In other words, life was to continue as normal for the 66% of the country’s population who had received one or more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine or could prove they have recovered from the virus within the last 180 days, but if you belonged to the 34% who were not in these two categories, you would need a very good excuse to leave your house.
By the end of this week, the whole script had changed. On Friday morning, the Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced a full lockdown and declared mandatory vaccination for everyone, to begin in February. From the New York Times:
Austria will go into a nationwide lockdown on Monday and impose a coronavirus vaccination mandate in February, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday. It is the first such lockdown in a European nation since the spring, and the first national vaccine mandate to be announced in a Western democracy.
Austria has one of Europe’s highest national coronavirus infection rates, with 14,212 new cases registered in 24 hours on Thursday. And the Alpine country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe….
Recent restrictions on unvaccinated people have failed to bring the outbreak sufficiently under control, leading to the measures announced on Friday.
It’s the first ruling of its kind in any liberal democracy. As Politico reports, It is the first European country — and one of the first in the world — to impose compulsory vaccination. It’s a huge step in the global public health response, especially for vaccines that are still,, authorised by the Europe Medicines Agency only on a “fast track” basis. During the same address the president also declared a lockdown for everyone that will last a maximum of 20 days.
So, in the space of just five days the Austrian government has gone from selective lockdown for the unvaccinated to blanket lockdown for everyone, becoming the first western European country to go into full lockdown after the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines. If other European countries follow suit, the global economy and markets could be in for a very bumpy winter. That said, the main focus of this article, the lion’s share of which was written yesterday, is on the government’s lockdown of the unvaccinated. We are in, as Lambert is wont to say, an overly dynamic situation.
Segregation on Steroids
The decision to launch the world’s first official lockdown of the unvaccinated was taken on Sunday (Nov 14) by Federal Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, whose Austrian People’s Party (OVP) leads the coalition government with the Green Party, as well as the heads of the nine autonomous federal provinces. On that day the number of newly confirmed Covid infections had surged to almost 12,000 (equivalent to around 90,000 new daily cases in the UK or 444,000 in the US). A total of 441 of the country’s roughly 2,000 ICU beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients.
The new measures came into force after midnight on Monday morning with the following key restrictions for the unjabbed or those who had Covid more than 6 months ago. They were told they could only leave their house:
• To go to work
• To go to school, college or university
• To go to the doctor’s or hospital or attend a vaccination centre
• To exercise
• To shop for essential items i.e. food
Anyone who had received just the first vaccination would remain exempt from the restrictions as long as they can provide negative PCR test results.
The new rules would be enforced by the police, with on-the-spot fines of up to €1450. More than two million citizens were affected by this discriminatory lockdown. The measures were to continue until November 24th, when they would be revisited. According to Federal Health Minister, Wolfgang Mückstein (Green Party), more restrictions such as evening curfews were likely to be brought in unless the exponential rise in cases in this fourth national wave is kept in check by the new measures. Instead, the country has gone into full national lockdown.
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