Austria’s COVID lockdown is dampening the temper throughout this vacation season


Austrians savored one final mulled wine in packed Christmas markets earlier than the curtain got here down on the holiday season that was simply getting underway, plunging the nation that gave the world “Silent Night” into its fourth lockdown of this pandemic on Monday. 

The capital, Vienna, awoke groggily to the brand new restrictions, with folks heading to work, to deliver youngsters to highschool or to train outdoor, kind of as traditional. 

This was not the draconian lockdown of the pandemic’s daybreak in 2020, when actions have been strictly monitored and discouraged. Police vehicles circulated, in step with authorities guarantees to step up controls, however no spot checks have been being made. 


Folks crowd a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. 
(AP Photograph/Vadim Ghirda)

“I am particularly annoyed by the lockdown,’’ said Georg Huber, a lawyer on his way to the office. “One ought to have finished extra analysis in, I don’t know, summer time? One ought to have carried out a compulsory vaccination in the summertime, when it turned out it might not be sufficient to hope that individuals get there with none coercion. I feel the federal government simply overslept.” 

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, coming in at around 66% of the population of 8.9 million people. There is a vocal minority who refuse to be inoculated. 

The government announced the nationwide lockdown on Friday, as the average daily deaths tripled in recent weeks and hospitals in hard-hit states warned that intensive care units were hitting capacity. 

The renewed restrictions will be in place for at least 10 days, but are likely to be extended for a further 10, after which the government has indicated plans to open up so Austrians can celebrate Christmas normally. Restrictions, however, will remain for the unvaccinated. 

A woman rides a bicycle along an empty street in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. 

A girl rides a bicycle alongside an empty road in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. 
(AP Photograph/Vadim Ghirda)

As of Monday, folks can depart their houses just for particular causes, together with shopping for groceries, going to the physician or exercising. Kindergartens and faculties will stay open for individuals who want them, however all mother and father have been requested to maintain their youngsters at residence if potential. 


Well being Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein stated the lockdown was essential to deliver down the variety of new day by day infections, which have spiked to as many as 15,000 a day, and to scale back the variety of virus sufferers in intensive care, at present at 531. However most of all, he stated, it was wanted to deliver aid “to the people who work in this sector, the nurses and doctors who cannot take it anymore.” 

“It is a situation where we have to react now. The only way is with a lockdown, a relatively hard method, to lower the numbers with a wooden hammer,’’ Mueckstein told national broadcaster ORF on Sunday night. 

Political analysts say the government did not effectively communicate the necessity of the vaccinations early enough, and that many Austrians did not take the campaign seriously enough after former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz declared the pandemic “over” last summer. Kurz was forced out in a corruption scandal last month, replaced by his foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, who inside of a week expanded the controversial lockdown on the unvaccinated to a lockdown for everyone. 


A couple poses for a photograph backdropped by the building of the city hall at a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. 

A pair poses for {a photograph} backdropped by the constructing of town corridor at a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. 
(AP Photograph/Vadim Ghirda)

Schallenberg additionally has pledged to make vaccinations obligatory by Feb. 1, with particulars nonetheless to be hammered out. Specialists have speculated that it could possibly be restricted to sure age teams and even tied to employment, as Italy has finished. In Italy, well being passes are required to entry locations of employment, and might be obtained with a unfavorable check good for 48 hours along with the vaccination or proof of getting recovered from the virus. 

On the eve of Austria’s newest lockdown, folks flocked to Christmas markets for one final night time of public socializing, and plenty of spent the weekend getting a leg up on vacation procuring earlier than shops closed. The Austrian Commerce Affiliation stated gross sales have been up 15% on Saturday, when traces shaped to reap the benefits of “Black Friday” offers, in contrast with the identical day in 2019, earlier than the pandemic. 

However many feared the last-minute enhance wouldn’t be sufficient to salvage the season for companies that depend on the vacation season. 


Sophie Souffle, who sells upcycled jewellery at markets all 12 months spherical, stated she makes most of her cash over the six-week Christmas market interval. Any promised assist from the federal government can be sufficient to get by, she stated, “but it won’t be enough to invest for future business.” 

She regarded round as folks trawled stands, eyeing wares greater than shopping for them, and gathering in small teams to benefit from the firm of others earlier than gatherings have been restricted. She sensed extra desperation than vacation spirit. 

“The temper is pre-apocalyptic,’’ she stated. 

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