Austria is back in full national lockdown to combat the spread of the Corona virus

Austria is back in full national lockdown as it battles a surge in coronavirus infections.

It is the first country in the European Union to implement this strict measure amid the current wave of COVID-19 hitting a number of European countries.

It is also the first country in the European Union to announce a vaccine mandate for the entire country, which will go into effect on February 1.

Average daily deaths have tripled in recent weeks in Austria, and some hospitals have warned that their intensive care units are reaching capacity.

Officials said the shutdown would last at least 10 days, but could extend up to 20 days.

People will only be able to leave their homes for specific reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the lockdown and mandate on Friday, apologizing to all vaccinated people, saying it was unfair for them to suffer under the renewed lockdown restrictions.

Earlier, Austria experimented with a lockdown only for people who were not immunized, but it did not slow down the infection enough.

Less than 66 percent of Austria’s 8.9 million population has been fully vaccinated, and vaccination rates have stabilized at one of the lowest in Western Europe.

Austria is among many Western European countries where infections are rising rapidly and where there are concerns that vaccination rates are not enough to stem the increase in hospital winters.

Thanks in large part to vaccinations, hospitals in Austria are not under the same strain as they were earlier in the pandemic, but many are still struggling to deal with rising numbers of COVID-19 patients while also trying to wind down their backlogs with overworked or sick staff.

Austria’s new lockdown is the fourth since the pandemic began and comes as the country struggles unsuccessfully to stem rising case numbers. On Friday, it reported 15,809 new infections, an all-time high.

After 10 days, the effects of closure will be evaluated. If virus cases are not sufficiently reduced, they can be extended to a maximum of 20 days.

After that, the lockdown will be lifted for all vaccinated people, but it could remain in place for those who refuse to be vaccinated, the government says.

Protests against the procedures

The new measures, particularly the vaccine mandate, have met with fierce opposition among some in the country.

Saturday’s demonstration in the capital, Vienna, attracted 40,000 people, according to police, including members of far-right parties and groups.

The measures elsewhere in Europe have also met with sometimes violent protests in recent days.

On Friday night, Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in a riot that broke out in downtown Rotterdam over a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions.

Protests were also held in the Italian capital, Rome, at the weekend.

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