Vienna, 22 November 2021 (dpa/MIA) – Austrians have began a three-week lockdown, coinciding with the highest ever daily number of new infections being recorded on Monday as a massive fourth wave of infections breaks over the country.
With the seven-day incidence rate reaching 1,100 new infections per 100,000 people, some 14,000 new cases being recorded on Saturday and intensive care wards filling up almost to levels reached at the peak of the third wave, the government hopes the new lockdown will provide a vital emergency brake.
People will only be allowed to leave their homes to work, shop for their daily requirements or do sports outside. Most shops and restaurants can only sell takeaway meals, cultural events are suspended and major sporting events are to take place behind closed doors. Schools, however, remain open, with parents free to decide whether their children should attend or not.
Many see the fourth lockdown in the country an indictment of the government, with up to 75 per cent of Austrians saying they no longer trust the governing coalition of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OeVP) and the Greens due to their failure to manage the pandemic, political scientist Peter Filzmaier told dpa on Monday.
Various other studies show that the feeling of distrust extends to the political opposition as well. “The feeling of having no alternative makes things even worse,” Filzmaier said.
In Filzmaier’s opinion, the government could still gradually regain confidence through prudent preparation for a fifth wave, including the procurement of drugs effective against Covid-19 and the efficient roll out of vaccines in future, especially to combat new strains of the virus. “It is not enough to work with positive buzzwords and partial truths,” Filzmaier concludes.
On Monday curfews came into force in Austria for the fourth time since the beginning of the pandemic. While these are due to end on December 13 for the vaccinated and those who have recovered from the coronavirus, the lockdown for unvaccinated people is open-ended at present.
“The public needs a clear outlook,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told Sunday’s edition of the Kronen Zeitung newspaper, ruling out an open-ended measure.
So far, two-thirds of Austrians are fully vaccinated against the virus, and the country plans to be the first in the EU to introduce mandatory vaccination in February 2022.
The measures have sparked protest, however, with some 40,000 demonstrating in Vienna on Saturday. Others, meanwhile, spent the weekend shopping or going to restaurants ahead of the lockdown.