Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg says the country will go into a national lockdown to contain a fourth wave of coronavirus cases
Schallenberg said the lockdown will start Monday and initially last for 10 days. Most stores will close, and cultural events will be canceled.
Starting on Feb. 1, the country will also make vaccinations mandatory, public broadcaster ORF reported.
“We do not want a fifth wave,” Schallenberg said, according to ORF. “Not do we want a sixth or seventh wave.”
Austria had initially introduced a national lockdown only for the unvaccinated that started Monday, but as virus cases continued to skyrocket the government said it had no choice but to extend it to everyone.
“This is very painful,” Schallenberg said.
The national lockdown will initially last for 10 days, then the effects will be assessed and if virus cases have not gone down sufficiently, it can be extended to a maximum of 20 days.
Austria’s intensive care doctors welcomed the government’s decision.
“Given the current infection developments, we believe there are no alternatives to even greater contact restriction than recently, so any measures that help curb the momentum are welcome,” he added.
For the past seven days, the country has reported more than 10,000 new infection cases daily. Hospitals have been overwhelmed with many new COVID-19 patients, and deaths have been rising again, too. So far, 11,525 people have died of the virus in Austria.
Austria, a country of 8.9 million, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe — only 65.7% of the population are fully vaccinated.
Despite all the persuasion and campaigns, too few people have decided to get vaccinated, Schallenberg said, leaving the country no other choice but to introduce mandatory vaccinations in February.
The chancellor said the details would be finalized in the coming weeks but those who continued to refuse to get vaccinated would have to expect to get fined.
“For a long time, the consensus in this country was that we didn’t want mandatory vaccination,” Schallenberg said. “For a long time, perhaps too long.”