VIENNA, Austria (AFP) — Austria on Wednesday announced it was ending a lockdown for those unvaccinated as it prepares to become the first EU country to make Covid-19 jabs mandatory from next week.
The government last November ordered those not vaccinated or recently recovered from coronavirus to stay at home with limited exceptions, such as going to work, as the country battled a surge in cases.
But with intensive care units no longer at capacity, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said the general order to stay at home would be lifted from next Monday.
The unvaccinated will still face restrictions, however. Restaurants, hotels, culture and sports venues all require guests to be inoculated or recently recovered.
“Our top priority is to keep the restrictions as low as possible and only for as long as absolutely necessary,” Nehammer told reporters.
“The lockdown for the unvaccinated is one of the strictest measures that can be taken. The situation in the hospitals allows us to end it,” he said.
Austria’s daily surge of new infections hit a fresh record on Wednesday. The country of almost nine million people has seen more than 1.6 million cases and 14,000 deaths.
Last Thursday, parliament approved making Covid-19 vaccinations mandatory for adults from February 4 despite a wave of protests.
To date, 72 percent of Austrian residents have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.
Under the new law, those holding out against the jab can face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,100) from mid-March after an initial “introductory phase”.
Compulsory Covid vaccinations are rare worldwide, though Ecuador, Indonesia, Micronesia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have introduced such schemes.
© Agence France-Presse