News ID: 317927
Published: 0305 GMT November 15, 2021

Austria locks down unvaccinated as Europe fights fresh wave

Austria locks down unvaccinated as Europe fights fresh wave

Police officers stand guard as people gather in Vienna to protest against COVID restrictions.

Austria became the first EU country on Monday to impose a lockdown on the unvaccinated and the first to start inoculating children as young as five, as the virus strengthens its grip on the continent.

Surging infection rates have placed Western Europe once again at the heart of the global epidemic and governments are being forced to take action, the Netherlands already announcing the region's first partial lockdown of the winter, according to AFP.

Austria has inoculated about 65 percent of its nine million people, below the EU average of 67 percent.

Daily new infection rates have been hovering at around 12,000 in recent weeks, up from roughly 2,000 a day in September.

But the restrictions on the unvaccinated have caused some resentment, with hundreds gathering in Vienna on Sunday to protest.

"This restricts my life, my freedom. It’s time that more people spoke up," protester Sabine, a 49-year-old energy consultant, told AFP at the rally, calling the move "discrimination".

As part of efforts to increase vaccination coverage, authorities in Vienna have also become the first in the EU to start vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11.

The European Medicines Agency has not yet approved any of the coronavirus vaccines for the five-to-11 age bracket.

But Vienna's Mayor Michael Ludwig said the situation was "serious" and that the city had the right to pursue a more "determined path".

Austria's government hopes its measures can stem the virus and take the pressure off struggling intensive care units.

It also wants to drive up the "shamefully low" rate of fully vaccinated residents.

The Interior Ministry has promised extra patrols to implement the lockdown.

But the measure has been widely criticised as unenforceable and unlikely on its own to reduce contacts by the amount necessary to curb the contagion.






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