Austria has become the first country in Europe to make the Covid vaccine compulsory. From February 1st, all adults will be required to have the vaccine. Sky News has more.
The measure to make vaccination compulsory among the adult population will attract controversy, with Austria only the fourth country in the world to do so – after Indonesia, Micronesia and Turkmenistan.[Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg] said: “Whipped up by radical anti-vaxxers, by fake news, too many among us didn’t get vaccinated. The results are overcrowded intensive care units and enormous suffering.”
He said the government therefore took “a very difficult decision… that we will quickly introduce a nationwide vaccine mandate” from 1 February.
The nation had already introduced a series of strict measures along with Germany and Slovakia in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as a debate intensifies over whether vaccines alone are enough to tackle coronavirus.
Around 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.
Its infection rate is among the highest in the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people – and daily cases keep setting records.
The country of 8.9 million has reported more than 10,000 new infection cases daily, while hospitals have been overwhelmed with many new Covid patients and deaths have also been rising again.
The national lockdown will initially last for 10 days, after which the effects will be assessed and the measures extended to a maximum of 20 days if cases have not gone down enough.
Two states in Austria – Salzburg and Upper Austria – had already triggered a range of restrictions, with the rules extended to apply to vaccinated people and a full lockdown from next week that would see schools shut and a curfew imposed.
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Stop Press: BBC News has more on this story.
Stop Press 2: Austria’s opposition leader – Herbert Kickl, leader of the right-wing populist FPO party – has said the country is now a dictatorship. MailOnline has more.