Austria closed public life on Monday at the start of its fourth national COVID19 bloc, making it the first country in Western Europe to re-impose the drastic and unpopular measure this fall in the face of escalating coronavirus infections.
This lockdown is similar to the previous ones but is the first introduced since vaccines became widely available. Most places people congregate, such as restaurants, cafes, bars, theaters, non-essential stores, and hairdressers cannot open for 10 days initially and maybe up to 20 days , according to the government.
Even the Christmas markets, a big attraction for tourists who had just started to open, must close but, with a last minute modification, the ski lifts can remain open to the vaccinated.
“This is a situation we must react to now,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told ORF TV on Sunday evening. “Lockdown, a relatively harsh method, is the only option to reduce the number (of infections) here.
The Conservative government imposed a lockdown on the unvaccinated last week, but daily infections continued to spread widely. The peak reached a year ago and intensive care beds are on the verge of running out.
The government announced on Friday that it would re-impose a full lockdown from Monday and make vaccinations mandatory from February 1, a step few countries have taken.
People are only allowed to go out from their home for a limited number of reasons such as going to work or buying basic necessities for a limited time and distance. It is possible to meet only one person at a time from another household.
Workplaces and schools will remain open, but the government has asked parents to keep their children at home if possible.