Austria will become the first country in Europe to return to a total COVID-19 lockdown amid a rise in cases across the country, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced Friday, according to multiple news outlets.
The lockdown will start Monday and last for 10 days and officials may extend it an additional 10 days, CNN noted.
The nation will also be the first in the European Union to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory, beginning Feb. 1.
“We have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,” Schallenberg told reporters at a press conference in Vienna, according to Reuters.
“It hurts that such measures still have to be taken,” he added.
Austria’s vaccination rate is on the lower end for Europe, with 65 percent of the population fully vaccinated. The country’s infection rate is one of the highest in Europe, with a seven-day incidence of 991 per 100,000 people, Reuter’s reported.
Austria, a country of 8.9 million, has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe. For the past seven days, the country reported more than 10,000 new infection cases daily. Hospitals have been overwhelmed with many new COVID-19 patients, and deaths have been rising again, too.
Public scepticism about vaccines has been encouraged by Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament. It is planning a protest against coronavirus restrictions on Saturday.
The lockdown means people are no longer allowed to leave their houses with few exceptions such as shopping for essentials and exercising.
Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from neighbouring Germany’s capital, Berlin, said Austrians had in recent weeks faced a “sliding scale” of gradually imposed restrictions.
“Now they are into full lockdown and clearly the reason for this is because the incidence of COVID-19 in many parts of Austria is now in four digits – more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people,” he said.
“That is a very considerable number and for many politicians in Austria right now, it is too much.”