The Austrian government on Thursday extended a lockdown for unvaccinated individuals by another ten days ahead of a COVID-19 vaccine requirement that is expected to go into effect in early 2022.
Austrians who chose not to get vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus will over the Christmas holidays, and up until New Year’s Eve, face restrictions that include limitations on shopping, being unable to attend work without a negative COVID-19 test, as well as being restricted to a number of events and indoor settings.
While under the measure, unvaccinated Austrians are generally not allowed to leave their homes or meet more than one person at a time from another household. The measure doesn’t apply to children under the age of 12 because they cannot yet officially get vaccinated.
Austria’s health minister announced last week that an exception will be granted by the government over the Christmas holidays and unvaccinated individuals will be allowed to join gatherings of up to 10 people from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26 without needing proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from the CCP virus.
“Christmas should show us once again how important contact with our loved ones is and how precious time together is,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said as he announced a temporary loosening to restrictions for unvaccinated citizens.
Those who are vaccinated or have recently recovered from the CCP virus are allowed gatherings of up to 25 people.
Austria has one of the world’s toughest CCP virus restrictions and was the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a new lockdown last month that has brought weekly protests in the country’s capital attended by tens of thousands of people.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, who announced earlier this month that he will step down as chancellor just months after taking office, claimed the unvaccinated-only lockdown is “necessary.”
“It’s our job as the government of Austria to protect the people,” Schallenberg said in mid-November as he ordered a nationwide lockdown for individuals who chose not to get jabbed.
Earlier this month, the government also released more information on its COVID-19 vaccine mandate that will go into effect on Feb. 1 and will require all persons who have a place of residence in Austria and are aged 14 and over to get the shot or face heavy quarterly fines up to €3,600 ($4,071). Austria will be the first in the European Union to introduce mandatory vaccinations.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe: roughly 69 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated. According to a recent report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), Austria is considered a country of “moderate concern” in the EU.