Austria Plans to Lift Lockdown, But Not for the Unvaccinated

VIENNA (Reuters) -
A demonstrator holds a placard reading “Freedom instead of mandatory vaccination” in front of police officers during a protest against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions and the mandatory vaccination in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 4. (REUTERS/Lisi Niesner)

The unvaccinated will stay in lockdown when Austria lifts its wider general lockdown on Sunday, Chancellor Karl Nehammer confirmed on Tuesday, a day after he took office.

Austria went into lockdown two weeks ago to counter a surge in daily COVID-19 infections to record levels, with restaurants, bars, theaters and nonessential shops shut to all but take-away business. Hotels are closed to tourists. Infections have plunged since but intensive-care bed occupancy is still rising.

A week before that general lockdown, people not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus were placed under lockdown, barring them from roughly the same places that are now shut, only allowed to leave home for the same limited number of reasons as the whole country now, such as going to work.

“The lockdown for the unvaccinated is staying,” Nehammer told a news conference while confirming that the wider lockdown would be lifted on Sunday as planned.

However, details still need to be ironed out at a meeting on Wednesday between the government and the influential governors of Austria’s nine provinces.

“For all the unvaccinated who are suffering from the fact they are staying in lockdown, there is a clear offer: you can come out of it if you seize the chance to get vaccinated,” Nehammer said.

Asked if restaurants and hotels would reopen at the weekend, Nehammer said that had already been agreed to with provincial governors and the aim was to reopen businesses as broadly as possible.

Individual provinces can impose tighter restrictions and Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig, one of the nine governors, told a news conference he expected non-essential shops and seasonal markets in the capital to reopen on Monday but restaurants and cafes there would not fully reopen until a week later.