Austria is threatening a potential lockdown for citizens not vaccinated against COVID-19 if the situation in the country’s intensive care units worsens.
“We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unprotected,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday evening following a crisis meeting in the central European nation.
Schallenberg ruled out a lockdown for those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 and said he hopes announcing the government’s plans to potentially restrict the movements of the unvaccinated will send a signal.
There are still too many “hesitators and procrastinators” he said, referring to those who have not yet made plans to receive a vaccine dose.
About 220 of the nation’s intensive care beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.
If this number climbs to 600, Austria would reach phase five of its COVID plan, which requires massive restrictions on movement for the unvaccinated.
Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said Austria is currently at phase one, so “we are looking very far into the future”.
The seven-day incidence in the country is at just below 230 new infections per 100,000 people.
Earlier in the week it was announced that from November 1 most employees in Austria will have to prove they have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from the virus.
Around 62 per cent of Austria’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated, with the country of 8.92 million people having recorded 11,233 deaths as a result of the pandemic.
Momentum has stalled in the country’s vaccine campaign in recent weeks, with only a few thousand doses given on some days.
The right-wing populist Freedom Party, one of the country’s biggest political groups, has been fuelling vaccine scepticism.
And last month, regional elections for the Upper Austrian state parliament delivered a shock result, with newly formed anti-vaccination party MFG (People, Freedom, Rights) achieving six per cent of votes, overcoming the four per cent threshold to enter parliament at its first attempt.