Austrians flock to get Covid jabs to avoid restrictions on movement

Vaccine requirements for entry to hotels and restaurants prompt rise in immunisation

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Austrians are flocking to be immunised against the coronavirus as the country bars unvaccinated people from restaurants and infections surge in much of Europe.

More than 70,000 people in the country received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the first week of November, the largest weekly total since July.

Restaurants, hotels, hair salons and events attended by 25 people or more are now closed to people without proof of vaccination or recovery from a virus infection.

There will be a four-week grace period in which people with one vaccine dose can gain entry with a recent negative PCR test until they are eligible for their second shot.

The stricter rules took effect on Monday.

Infections are rising sharply in Austria, with 56,561 new cases recorded since Tuesday, a 66 per cent increase on the previous week’s figure.

Infections are also on the rise in other European countries including Germany, Denmark, Poland and the Netherlands.

In Germany, the infection rate reached a record high on Monday, rising above 200 cases per 100,000 people in a week for the first time.

The three political parties in the country that aim to form a new government next month were expected to present their proposals for the winter on Monday.

Free coronavirus tests were phased out last month, to encourage vaccine uptake, but some politicians from the prospective coalition parties said they should be brought back.

“Free citizen tests can be an important tool, especially in the autumn,” said Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus, a health spokeswoman for the liberal Free Democrats.

Bavaria bolsters Covid measures

The state of Bavaria, which has one of Germany’s highest infection rates, is poised to bring in rules similar to those of Austria if its hospitals approach capacity.

From Monday, masks will be compulsory in schools and pupils will be tested every day if an infection in their class comes to light.

Bavarian premier Markus Soeder said vaccination centres that were closed owing to a lack of demand should be reopened.

He told a German radio station that 90 per cent of patients in intensive care were unvaccinated, and that they occupied beds needed by cardiac and cancer patients.

“We have to look at hospitals, and in a number of areas the situation is threatening,” he said.

‘Moral responsibility’ to get Covid vaccine

Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg spoke of a “moral responsibility” to be immunised and said unvaccinated people could face further restrictions on movement if cases continued to rise.

“The situation is serious. It is our responsibility to protect the people of Austria,” he said.

About 63 per cent of Austria’s population is fully immunised, which puts it in the bottom half of EU countries.

In Denmark, where the vaccination rate is higher, most restrictions were abolished in September. But Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said some measures might be needed to curb rising infections.

“We can see that the infection is spreading from those who have not been vaccinated to those who have been vaccinated, including the elderly and people at risk,” she said.

“The disease is again starting to have a more serious impact on our society and health care. Therefore, I expect that measures that can break the chain of infection will be necessary.”

Belgium is once more encouraging people to work from home and has extended mandatory face mask use to shopping centres, museums and places of worship.

In Russia, where the vaccination rate is lower, a week-long paid holiday ordered by President Vladimir Putin ended on Monday despite infections continuing to rise.

Proof of vaccination is not required for most public activities in the capital, Moscow.

In England, ministers have resisted calls to adopt a so-called Plan B, which could include the introduction of mandatory vaccine checks.

The British government is relying on a high level of vaccine coverage to prevent further restrictions this winter.

More than 10 million people have received a booster dose in the UK, accounting for about one in five people aged 12 and older.

Updated: November 08, 2021, 4:08 PM