VIENNA (AP) - Austria is implementing a lockdown for unvaccinated people in two hard-hit regions next week and looks poised to move forward with similar measures nationwide, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said Friday.
Starting Monday, unvaccinated people in the regions of Upper Austria and Salzburg will only be allowed to leave home for specific necessary reasons, such as buying groceries or going to the doctor.
Schallenberg said he and regional leaders will meet again on Sunday and plan to give approval for implementing those measures across the country.
At a separate press conference Friday, Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said the government will introduce a vaccine requirement for people working in the healthcare industry. He did not specify when the new requirements will take effect.
Austria has faced a worrying trend in infections in recent weeks. The country reported 11,798 new cases on Friday, up from 9,388 a week ago. The 7-day infection rate stands at 760.6 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 528.8 a week ago and 316.4 two weeks ago.
Schallenberg and Mueckstein said stricter measures are necessary to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Currently, 437 people are being treated for the coronavirus in intensive care units.
Previously, the government had planned to implement lockdown measures for unvaccinated people when the number of people in ICU beds reached 600. However, Schallenberg said Friday that the numbers are rising faster than expected and it is “not sensible to wait” until the country officially crosses that threshold.
Last Friday, Schallenberg announced that unvaccinated people would be barred from large parts of public life, including restaurants, hotels, and events of more than 25 people. Those rules went into effect on Monday.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe: 65% of the total population is fully vaccinated, and 67.8% have received at least one dose of vaccine.