Austrian theatres and restaurants have reopened after the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted by Chancellor Karl Nehammer. However, unvaccinated persons are still barred from any non-essential activities.
However, Sunday’s lockdown halt for vaccinated residents comes with some strings attached: A national 11pm curfew is still in place for restaurants, and mask-wearing remains compulsory in indoor public spaces. Also, each of the country’s nine states can tighten restrictions based on local conditions; in fact, business reopenings won’t begin in some areas until later this month.
Nehammer declared the relaxation of Covid-19 regulations on Wednesday. He called the decision an “anonymous.” “opening with a seatbelt,”He was referring to both the restrictions remaining and the states’ ability to take action as necessary. He said that he did not believe in keeping people unvaccinated locked up. “There is the offer of science – that, by getting vaccinated, these troubles can be quickly put aside and that, then, common freedom can actually be lived together.”
Austria is being rocked by protests about vaccine orders and home confinement. There was even a Saturday demonstration in Vienna that the police estimate had been attended by over 44,000 people.
Its citizens face a nationwide vaccine mandate that’s scheduled to take effect in February 2022, making it the first Western democracy to impose such a requirement. Those who don’t comply – only about 68% of Austrians are fully vaccinated – can be fined as much as €3,600.
Unvaccinated Austrians were placed under lockdown by the government last month. This was a welcome move, and cheered enthusiastically by those who chose to have a shot. With Covid-19 cases still on the rise, however, the order was later extended to cover everyone. Governors from states like Salzburg and Upper Austria had demanded that the restrictions be extended. They feared their hospitals would become overwhelmed by rising coronavirus infection.
The lockdown saw an increase in hospitalizations for Covid-19 patients and deaths, even though there were fewer new cases. The country’s hospitals currently have 567 Covid-19 patients in their intensive-care units, up from 514 on November 19 – the day the widened lockdown was announced.