Police conduct random vaccine status checks

Police officers monitor lockdown compliance in Innsbruck during the first day of the national lockdown for people not yet vaccinated against Covid-19.

Jan Hetflich | Getty Images

Austria has imposed new lockdown measures on about two million unvaccinated people, with fines imposed on individuals if they fail to comply with the rules.

Those not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 are back in lockdown since Monday, as federal police stopped people in public places to check their vaccination status.

Unvaccinated people who violate lockdown rules face fines of up to 500 euros ($567), and anyone who refuses to comply with vaccination status checks can be fined 1,450 euros.

The new restrictions apply to everyone over 12 years old who has not received two doses of the vaccine. People who have recently recovered from the virus are exempt from the restrictions.

Complete proof of vaccination is required to visit public places such as restaurants, hair salons and Christmas markets. In Vienna, children over six years old will need to show a negative result for a Covid test to be allowed to enter these public places.

Austrian authorities will only accept vaccinations approved by Europe’s medical regulator – Pfizer-BioNtech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna – when it comes to proving vaccination status. Immunization significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death.

Austrian police officers check a man’s identity and vaccination certificate during a lookout in Füssendorf, County Muedling, Austria, on November 16, 2021.

Hans Pons | AFP | Getty Images

Over the weekend, new virus cases in Austria reached an all-time high of 13,152 in a single day, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. On Monday, the country recorded 11,889 new infections.

About 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, giving the country the second lowest vaccination rate in Western Europe after Liechtenstein.

Announcing the new lockdown restrictions at a news conference on Sunday, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg declared that the rules would be “constantly monitored and punished” by police officers.

“The situation of the coronavirus in Austria is serious and the fourth wave is catching up with us in full. The number of new infections in Austria is higher than it was before,” he told reporters. The only way to break this vicious cycle of the epidemic is through vaccination.

Interior Minister Karl Nahammer said on Twitter on Tuesday that on Monday alone about 15,000 police searches were carried out across Austria.

“About 120 violations were found and punished,” he said, adding that the public showed a high level of cooperation with the authorities.

Police officers monitor compliance with the lockdown of the unvaccinated on November 15, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria.

Jan Hetflich | Getty Images

Despite lawmakers’ conviction that Austrian police are on hand to ensure compliance with the lockdown, the policy has been criticized as difficult to implement.

Unvaccinated people are still allowed to leave their homes for a variety of reasons, such as grocery shopping, traveling to work provided they test negative for the virus or participating in religious practices.

The shutdown also faces resistance from Austria’s third largest political party, the right-wing Freedom Party, which has called the move “corona apartheid” and made plans to protest the restrictions in Vienna on Saturday.

The party’s leader, Herbert Kekel, said on Facebook on Monday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would be in quarantine for the event.

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