CENTRAL EUROPE – In a drastic step to curb a fourth wave of coronavirus infections that are rocking the country, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced on Friday that he will impose a national lockdown on nearly all businesses and public events, and that COVID-19 vaccinations will now be mandatory for all citizens, with no exceptions allowed.
The lockdown, which is set to begin on Monday, is currently slated to last for 10 days; however, if the infection rate remains high, that number can be extended to a maximum of 20 days, reports say. But while nearly all businesses and events will be forced to close, schools will remain open; however parents are being urged to keep their children home to participate in virtual learning unless absolutely necessary.
In addition, Austria will also force COVID-19 vaccination upon all citizens, making the jab mandatory as of February 1, 2022. Chancellor Schallenberg said that such steps, while heavy-handed, are needed for the public good.
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“We do not want a fifth wave,” he said. “Nor do we want a sixth or seventh wave.”
Initially, Austria had instituted a lockdown that went into effect this past Monday for all citizens who had remained unvaccinated against COVID-19; however, it appeared to have little effect, as the number of reported cases of the virus nonetheless shot into the stratosphere. Based on that, Schallenberg said that he had no recourse but to extend the lockdown to all, vaccinated or not.
“This is very painful,” Schallenberg said.
Austria has a population of just under 9 million residents, and reportedly has one of the lowest rates of inoculation against COVID-19 in Western Europe; for the past week, the country has experienced over 10,000 new cases on a daily basis, overwhelming hospitals throughout the nation.