Austria announced that it would be enacting nationwide vaccine mandates and targeted lockdowns for those who have not yet been vaccinated.
The Associated Press reported that the scope of the vaccine mandate is as yet undefined, but it is expected to be a blanket requirement and would be the first of its kind for a Western country.
Additionally, those who don’t comply with the mandate will be fined, according to Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg.
“The moves come as vaccinations in Austria have plateaued at one of the lowest rates in Western Europe, and as hospitals in heavily hit states have warned that their intensive care units are reaching capacity,” the AP reported.
“Average daily deaths have tripled in recent weeks — though the number of fatalities reported over the past week remains well below the high of last winter and 13 U.S. states are already seeing more deaths per 100,000 people.”
This wasn’t the first clue about what was coming, however. Earlier in the month, Schallenberg said there would be a lockdown targeted at those who are not yet vaccinated, saying a full lockdown wasn’t needed.
According to reports from the media, the lockdown for unvaccinated residents will begin on Monday and is currently scheduled to last for 10 days, after which they will reevaluate the situation.
The small Western European nation plans to make vaccinations mandatory nationwide beginning on Feb. 1 of 2022, though the chancellor gave very few details about how they would implement such a plan:
“Increasing the vaccination rate — and I think we’re all in agreement on this — is our only way to break out of this vicious cycle of viral waves and lockdown discussions for good,” Schallenberg said. “We don’t want a fifth wave, we don’t want a sixth and seventh wave.”
Currently, just under 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million residents are fully vaccinated according to national statistics, and the country is desperate to increase the number of citizens who have received the controversial shots.
Like other countries in the region, they have already begun using a “green pass” — which requires that individuals show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19 or a negative test result to enter restaurants and go to cultural events.
“There are too many political forces in this country, which vehemently, massively and publicly oppose (vaccination). … This is actually an attack on our health system,” Schallenberg said. “The results are overcrowded intensive care units and enormous human suffering.”
If implemented, Austria’s vaccine mandate would be one of the strictest in the world.