(CMR) Austria has placed about two million people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 into lockdown as the country faces a surge in coronavirus cases. As of Monday, 15 November, the unvaccinated will only be permitted to leave home for limited reasons, like working or buying food.
The unvaccinated were already barred from visiting restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas, but will now be expected to stay at home, BBC reported. Police are expected to carry out spot checks in public spaces to determine the vaccination status of individuals.
About 65% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated – one of the lowest rates in western Europe, BBC reported. The European country's seven-day infection rate is more than 800 cases per 100,000 people, which is one of the highest in Europe.
“We are not taking this step lightly, but unfortunately, it is necessary,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
According to BBC, the measures introduced in Austria on Monday come amid growing pressure on the nation's hospitals and will initially last for 10 days.
Children under the age of 12 and people who have recently recovered from the virus will be exempt.
Hundreds of people protested this new policy outside the chancellery in the capital, Vienna, waving banners that read: “Our bodies, our freedom to decide.”
Many have raised concerns about whether the lockdown is constitutional. The far-right Freedom Party said it would create a group of second-class citizens.
Some other countries are also introducing measures applying only to the unvaccinated. In Australia, the state of Queensland will bar unvaccinated people from restaurants, pubs and sports events from 17 December. In Singapore, those who remain unvaccinated by choice will have to pay for their own medical bills from December.
Europe is currently the region most seriously affected by the pandemic and several countries are introducing restrictions and warning of rising cases. However, the UK, which has one of the highest infection rates, has not reintroduced restrictions, despite calls for rules like mandatory face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces.