COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID digest: Austria approves lockdown for unvaccinated

Published : November 15, 2021 14:06 IST

Schallenberg said these measures were necessary to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Photo: Leonhard Foeger/REUTERS

With one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, Austria is imposing strict rules for the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, Morocco begins COVID tests for people arriving at airports.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced on November 14 that a lockdown for unvaccinated people will begin on November 15. "We must raise the vaccination rate. It is shamefully low," Schallenberg told a news conference announcing the new measure. People who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID will only be allowed to leave their homes for specific purposes, like going to a doctor, getting groceries, going to work — or getting vaccinated. There will be random checks to ensure compliance, according to the decision from a meeting of Schallenberg and the heads of the country's state governments.

Schallenberg had announced on November 12 that he was imposing the lockdown in two regions, Upper Austria and Salzburg, both among the places most impacted by the fallout of people choosing not to take the jab. At a separate press conference on November 12, Austrian Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said the government would also introduce a vaccine requirement for people working in the health care industry, but didn't specify when the rules would go into effect.

Austria has lately seen a rise in the number of reported COVID cases. On November 13, Austria recorded 13,152 new coronavirus cases, up from 11,798 a day before. The seven-day infection rate stands at 775.5 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 528.8 a week ago and 316.4 two weeks ago. In comparison, the incidence rate is 277.4 in neighboring Germany, which has also sounded the alarm over rising numbers. Around 437 people were being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care units in Austrian hospitals as of November 12.

Although the government had planned to implement measures when the number of people being admitted to ICUs reached 600, Schallenberg said on November 12 that it was "not sensible to wait" any longer. Unvaccinated people have already been barred from entering restaurants, hotels and events of more than 25 people. With just 65 per cent of the total population vaccinated, Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe.

Here are the latest developments on coronavirus from around the world:

Elsewhere in Europe

The cumulative case count of coronavirus infections in Germany has now passed the 5-million mark. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported 33,498 new cases on November 14, bringing the national total to 5,021,469 since the pandemic first arrived. Germany also reported 55 deaths on November 14. Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a "national effort" to break a fourth wave of the virus and urged people to get vaccinated.

Nearly 4,000 people took to the streets in Italy's city of Milan to protest strict COVID rules imposed by the government, according to Italy's Ansa news agency. Protesters were mainly opposing a government requirement of having workers — both in the public and private sectors — get government-issued health passes. Italy reported 8,544 new COVID cases and 53 virus-related deaths on November 13.

Parliamentary and presidential elections got underway in Bulgaria on November 14 amid a surge of COVID-19 infections. This week, the country reported 334 deaths in a single day, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic. Analysts predict a low turnout due to people's concerns over the spread of the virus, sluggish vaccine uptake and political apathy after two inconclusive elections. The Balkan country is the least vaccinated in the E.U., with less than one-third of its adults fully inoculated. Meanwhile, a fire broke out on a ward for COVID-19 patients in Bulgaria early on November 14, killing three people, officials said.

Africa

Morocco on November 13 announced stricter rules for passengers arriving at airports. People will now have to take a rapid COVID test at the airport before being allowed to enter the country — strengthening an existing requirement of a negative test 48 hours before departure. Morocco has administered more coronavirus jabs than any other African country, vaccinating 24.3 million people out of 36 million people. It has also begun administering booster shots.

Asia

With Winter Olympics less than 100 days away, Beijing said individuals who traveled to county-level administrative divisions with international overland ports of entry should avoid the Chinese capital. Though China's infection numbers are lower than in many other countries, it is pursuing a zero-tolerance policy against local clusters with stringent measures along international borders.

From November 15, Cambodia will no longer require vaccinated travelers to quarantine. Prime Minister Hun Sen said arrivals will need to show negative test results 72 hours prior to travel and have two vaccine doses. Those who are unvaccinated will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Oceania

Australia, quickly becoming one of the most-vaccinated nations, will likely start shots for children under the age of 12 in January. Health Minister Greg Hunt said medical regulators are still reviewing the health and safety data and are unlikely to decide this year. "The expectation that they have set is the first part of January, hopefully early January," Hunt told the Australian Broadcast Corp's Insiders program.

mm, rm/fb (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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