Austria announces first nationwide Covid vaccination mandate in Europe

Schallenberg said his government would seek to impose the national vaccine requirement starting Feb. 1. Just under 66% of Austria’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, one of the lowest rates in the European Union, where cases are increasing.

The national lockdown, the first in Europe this fall, begins Monday and will last for a minimum of 10 days, and could be extended for another 10 days, Schallenberg told reporters at a press conference in Vienna.

“We don’t want a fifth wave. We don’t want a sixth and a seventh wave. We don’t want to have this discussion next summer,” Schallenberg said.

Under those measures, which came into effect on November 15, the unvaccinated were ordered to stay home, except for a few limited reasons, and the rules were controlled by officers conducting on-the-spot checks on those who were out of home.

Vaccines are currently recommended for all people over 12 years of age in Austria. On Monday, a pilot scheme to vaccinate children aged five to 11 was launched in Vienna, the national capital.

Austria to impose Covid lockdown for unvaccinated over 12s

When asked by CNN at what age the mandatory vaccination order would apply, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said: “The details are yet to come, from what age and when it is considered that you are fully vaccinated.”

Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Friday that schools and kindergartens would remain open during the upcoming national shutdown.

But Schallenberg said it was possible for parents to take their children out of school if they wanted to. “This is always a challenge, for all families,” he said. During Austria’s first shutdown, schools and kindergartens were closed.

Mückstein also urged the use of FFP2 masks in all enclosed spaces, saying that employees could request the option to work from home whenever possible.

Once the national lockdown is lifted, lockdown measures will remain in place for unvaccinated Austrians, Mückstein said, adding that everything possible should be done to avoid a “fifth wave.”

Schallenberg had harsh words for anti-vaccination activists when he addressed the press conference on Friday, saying they had acted irresponsibly.

“We have too many political forces in this country fighting against this [vaccination] vehemently, massively and publicly. That is irresponsible. In reality, this is an attack on our health care system, “he said.

“And incited by these radical opponents of vaccination, by false and misleading news, sadly many of us have not been vaccinated. The consequence is overcrowding of intensive care units and enormous human suffering.”

Once it takes effect in February, Austria’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate will be the strictest measure to control coronavirus through vaccination so far seen in Europe.

In Italy, all workers must have a “green pass”, a health certificate showing complete vaccination, recent recovery from an infection or a negative test within the previous 48 hours, or risk a fine and suspension without pay. salary. . People must also show their “green pass” to enter public places such as theaters and cinemas.

However, only healthcare workers should be vaccinated.

The Italian government has attributed the increase in vaccination rates to the “green pass” strategy.

Covid cases in Germany hit a record with Merkel's warning of 'dramatic' situation

Neighboring Germany also announced plans Thursday to introduce specific Covid-19 restrictions on the unvaccinated in order to address record levels of infections amid its fourth wave of the pandemic.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel described the Covid-19 situation in the country as “dramatic” and “very worrying” at a press conference on Thursday, following a meeting with Germany’s 16 state leaders on tougher measures of the Covid-19.

Merkel warned that intensive care unit beds were filling up too quickly, adding that “it was time to act.”

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin on Friday, Acting Health Minister Jens Spahn described Germany as “in a national emergency”, adding that “we will not break this wave with vaccines alone.”

When asked about the possibility of a lockdown for everyone, Spahn told reporters that “we are in a situation where we cannot rule out anything.”

Lothar Wieler, director of Germany’s center for disease control and disease, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), told reporters that the country had never seen infection rates as high as now throughout the pandemic.

For the twelfth day in a row, Germany has reported record new cases of Covid-19. On Friday, the RKI reported 52,970 new cases in the last 24 hours. More than 98,000 people have died as a result of the coronavirus in Germany, according to RKI data.

The country’s current daily death rate is between 200 and 300, Wieler said. However, due to the record level of infections in Germany over the past 12 days, “the death rate is likely to increase in the next few days,” he said.

France is also experiencing an increase in Covid-19 infection rates, but French President Emmanuel Macron has said that a lockdown on the unvaccinated is “not necessary” given the country’s Covid-19 strategy.

“The countries that are blocking the unvaccinated are those that do not have the ‘health pass’ in place,” Macron said, in an interview with the French newspaper La Voix du Nord published Thursday night.

France’s “health pass” confirms the carrier’s vaccination status or proof of a negative Covid test and has regulated access to a wide variety of establishments in France since its introduction in July.

Ireland, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, with 89.1% of people over the age of 12 vaccinated, imposed a midnight curfew in bars, restaurants and nightclubs starting Thursday as The country faces a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

CNN’s Joseph Ataman contributed to this report.

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