Daily Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infections have surpassed 14,000 cases days after Austria decided to lockdown the unvaccinated in a bid to contain the outbreak, resulting in numerous hospitals reaching breaking point.
The situation is worse in Upper Austria and Salzburg, where hospitals are coming under increasing strain. Salzburg said it is preparing for a triage situation when the number of people needing intensive care beds exceeds supply, though that stage has not yet been reached.
The regions of Salzburg and Upper Austria will introduce a full lockdown for the entire population next week, with Upper Austria Gov. Thomas Stelzer demanding the same policy be imposed nationwide.
Police officers continue to patrol supermarkets and highways while demanding to see people’s vaccination status. Other European countries like Germany, Italy, Czech Republic and Slovakia are expected to follow Austria’s example.
About two million people are not yet fully vaccinated in Austria, where 65 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. This is one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe. The seven-day infection rate is more than 800 cases for every 100,000 people.
“We are not taking this step lightly, but unfortunately it is necessary,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
The measures introduced in Austria on November 15 will initially last for 10 days. Hundreds of people, though, protested outside the chancellery in Vienna waving banners that read: “Our bodies, our freedom to decide.”
One female protester said she was demonstrating “to fight for my rights.”
Another female protester said: “It is totally discriminatory what is happening here.”
Unvaccinated people were already barred from visiting restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas, and now they are also expected to stay home. “In reality we have told one third of the population: You will not leave your home except for certain reasons,” Schallenberg said. “That is a massive reduction in contacts between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.”
The government says police will carry out spot checks in public spaces to determine the vaccination status of individuals, and issue fines to those caught breaking the rules.
Anyone who violates the lockdown for the unvaccinated could be fined €500 ($562), while a penalty of €1,450 ($1,629) could be incurred for refusing to participate in checks. There was a last-minute rush at vaccination centers in Upper Austria on the eve of the new restrictions.
Critics have questioned whether the move is constitutional with the far-right Freedom Party saying it will create a group of second-class citizens. (Related: Ireland town that’s 99.7 percent “fully vaccinated” seeing massive Covid “outbreak.”)
Riots erupted in Rotterdam as protesters expressed their anger over the implementation of new measures by the Dutch government banning fireworks on New Year’s Eve and introducing the “coronapass” for the vaccinated and COVID-19 survivors. The country also imposed a three-week partial earlier this month as cases surged.
The measures mean restaurants and shops have to close early, and sports events must take place behind closed doors. Only those with the coronapass will be allowed to enter indoor venues.
A police spokesperson said warning and direct shots were fired as protesters threw rocks and fireworks and even set police on fire. At least two people have been injured as a result of the shots.
Rotterdam has been placed under state of emergency, and its main station has been closed as a result of the violence. Videos posted on social media showed burnt-out police cars and rioters hurling rocks at police in one of the city’s main shopping streets.
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