Austria Will End Lockdown for Vaccinated People
(Bloomberg) -- Austria will end a nationwide lockdown this weekend for people who’ve been inoculated against Covid-19 or have recovered from the virus, while continuing to limit participation in public life for those who refuse to be vaccinated.
The government will meet regional leaders on Wednesday to assess the measures needed to keep the pandemic contained and turn a “tendency of falling cases into a trend,” Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters in Vienna.
The measures have helped halve the number of 7-day infections per 100,000 inhabitants from as high as 1,110 at the start of the lockdown, even as occupancy of intensive-care units remains near a record.
Austria is looking to start winding down restrictions just as other parts of Europe tighten further. France said Monday it was shutting down nightclubs for four weeks while uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant has prompted swift curbs on travel across the world. Poland on Tuesday moved to online schooling over an extended holiday period and mandated vaccinations for health-care workers and teachers.
The omicron variant has injected broader uncertainty, with the Norwegian Institute of Public Health warning it could become the dominant strain in the country over the course of some weeks.
Austria imposed its lockdown policy last month not only to stem infections but also raise vaccination rates, which remain stuck in the lower half of countries tracked by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Austria’s chancellor, who was sworn in on Monday, said some restrictions may remain for hotels and restaurants, and regional leaders have the option to impose stricter local measures.
The Vienna municipality plans to allow shops and services to re-open from Monday for the vaccinated. Some closed spaces such as restaurants and hotels will have to wait at least another week, in part due to uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant, Mayor Michael Ludwig said Tuesday.
Austria is one of few European nations to impose the strictest restrictions in the latest wave of the pandemic. It also plans to make vaccinations mandatory from February and fine dissenters.
“If you are ready to accept scientific results, get a vaccination and protect others, then you will regain your freedom,” Nehammer said.
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