The federal and state governments agreed on an Austria-wide lockdown for people who had not been vaccinated or who had not recovered against the corona virus. In ORF’s “ZiB 2”, Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein (Greens) went one step further. He wants to discuss further tightening on Wednesday. He brought night exit restrictions also for vaccinated people into play.
“There will also be night exit restrictions for people who have been vaccinated. This is part of the package of measures that is on the table,” said the Minister of Health. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg (ÖVP) can do little with Mückstein’s advance. He spoke out on Monday against renewed measures for night dining. According to Schallenberg, further measures could concern an extended FFP2 mask requirement, home office and a “2Gplus” regulation for events, he said in the Ö1 “morning journal”.
“Of course I do not rule out that we will re-sharpen,” said Schallenberg. But that “we’re going to the night restaurant again, I don’t see that at the moment”. Tourism Minister Elisabeth Köstinger (ÖVP) thinks “absolutely nothing of the words of the Minister of Health”. In a conversation with journalists on the fringes of the EU Agricultural Council in Brussels on Monday, she spoke out “absolutely against general exit restrictions”.
The SPÖ also rejects Mückstein’s proposal at the appropriate time, as one must first see how the measures that have just been taken work. “The vaccinated must not be the stupid,” was the maxim of Neos health spokesman Gerald Loacker at a press conference. If it doesn’t matter anyway whether you vaccinate or test yourself, then no one will ever pick up a vaccination, he argued.
ÖVP does not want any restrictions for vaccinated people
Mückstein defended the “lockdown for the unvaccinated” with the “dramatic situation in the intensive care units”. In addition, the announced mandatory vaccination for health workers is now to be prepared by law. When taking stock of the “2G rule” on Wednesday, the minister also wants to propose the package of measures presented by scientists on Friday – including mandatory FFP2 masks indoors and PCR tests for vaccinated people. However, the ÖVP recently rejected restrictions for vaccinated people.
The exit restrictions that apply from today affect people who neither have a valid vaccination certificate nor can prove that they have overcome a corona infection in the last 180 days. They have already been excluded from going to local restaurants or from access to sports facilities and hairdressers. What is new for unvaccinated people is that they are limited to the supply of basic goods of daily life even when shopping.
Known exceptions remain
It is still possible for unvaccinated people to go to the doctor and other health services or to get a vaccination. The “satisfaction of basic religious needs” and the way to school or university will also be possible. Children under the age of twelve are completely exempt from the restrictions. Those who have been vaccinated for the first time can “free-test” themselves with a PCR test.
The lockdown is to be controlled by a “close-knit network”, announced Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). From Monday there will be two additional police patrols per district exclusively for controlling the lockdown. Criminal police focal points, for example in the fight against fraud in connection with certificates, would also be set. Nehammer also announced a systematic sanctioning of violations. In the event of inspection, there should initially be warnings, but in the event of non-transparency, penalties should be given from the start.
The control of private space is not an issue for Nehammer. However, he appealed to keep the rules in the private sphere, “even if the police cannot go into their own four walls.”
The unvaccinated lockdown affects around two million people and is initially limited to ten days. Experts had previously called for a contact reduction of at least 30 percent. Many experts doubt whether this is possible with a lockdown alone for unvaccinated people.
Kickl: “Total madness”
The lockdown for the unvaccinated has met with criticism, especially from the Freedom Party and the Neos – albeit for different reasons. FPÖ chairman Herbert Kickl described the measure in a broadcast on Sunday as “complete madness”. The NEOS, in turn, called for changes to the regulation specifically for children before the main committee on Sunday evening. Because only from 14 you can decide on your own for or against the vaccination.
Kickl wants to fight against the regulation “with all parliamentary and legal means available to us,” as he emphasized again. The lockdown would mean “imprisoning two million people without having done anything wrong”. The FPÖ will bring “this unconstitutional madness, which violates all fundamental and civil rights and represents a new ‘quality’ of human contempt and cold-heartedness, before the Constitutional Court”.
11,552 new infections on Sunday
Meanwhile, the number of new corona infections reported in Austria within 24 hours also remained extremely high on Sunday: 11,552 new infections were recorded within 24 hours. For comparison: last Sunday there were 8,554 new infections. 17 people died in the past 24 hours from or as a result of Covid-19.
Regarding the situation in the hospitals: In a weekly comparison there was a very strong increase in Covid patients. According to data from the Ministry of the Interior and Health, 2,327 corona patients currently have to be cared for in Austria’s hospitals. That is 45 Covid patients more than yesterday Saturday. The strong increase can be seen in a weekly comparison. As of Sunday there are 424 more Covid patients in the hospital than a week ago. Intensive care care currently requires 433 people, twelve more than yesterday and 68 more than a week ago.
As of Sunday, the seven-day incidence for all of Austria was 848.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The federal state with the highest seven-day incidence is currently Upper Austria with 1,327.7, followed by Salzburg, Carinthia and Vorarlberg (1,270.7, 916.2 and 864.4, respectively). Lower Austria (863.2), Tyrol (843.6), Styria (671.2), Burgenland (612.1) and Vienna (468.1) follow.
Government promises help
Finance Minister Gernot Blümel (ÖVP) announced further economic aid on Saturday in view of the impending exit restrictions for unvaccinated people. “Until the end of the year, there will still be compensation for losses, guarantees or even short-time work. Due to the currently necessary tightening, further help will be needed for particularly affected companies,” said Blümel in a broadcast. The Momentum Institute on the left calculates daily costs of 41 million euros.
Labor Minister Martin Kocher (ÖVP) emphasized on Saturday afternoon: “Companies affected by the lockdown will receive full Corona short-time work.” A reduction in working hours to zero percent with Corona short-time work is possible. “Companies that are affected by official closings can in any case continue to be assured of support from short-time work,” assured Kocher.
The current phase 5 of short-time work is available to all companies that are not fully utilized. Normally, short-time work enables working hours to be reduced to 50 percent, and in exceptional cases even below this up to a complete loss of work. In addition, the current form of phase 5 is open to all those companies that need the support.
The Ministry of Finance does not yet want to assess the economic costs of the announced measures. “Here we are currently examining which of the previous measures represents a sensible and quickly implementable support. However, the situation cannot be compared with the previous year, especially since it is not yet possible to foresee how great the actual impact on the economy will be due to the current restrictions for unvaccinated people “said Blümel.
Demo in front of the Chancellery
The government’s announcement of the lockdown for the unvaccinated was accompanied by expressions of discontent on Sunday. In front of the Federal Chancellery on Vienna’s Ballhausplatz, several hundred demonstrators – there were no official figures from the police – gathered to demonstrate loudly against the corona measures. According to the Vienna police, no incidents were reported.
According to the banners that were seen at the demonstration, it was a registered demonstration by anti-vaccination agents. Even before the government members appeared after a video conference, the Chancellery had been secured with barriers. (apa)
Editor’s note: The article was updated with the latest information on Monday 11:20 am.