Police conduct spot checks on vaccine status

Police are monitoring Innsbruck’s lockdown on the first day of nationwide isolation for people not yet vaccinated against Covid-19.

Jan Hetfleisch | Getty Images

Austria has introduced new isolation measures for around 2 million unvaccinated people, with people facing fines if they don’t follow the rules.

Those incompletely vaccinated against Covid-19 are again under lockdown since Monday, when federal police stop people in public places to check their vaccination status.

Unvaccinated people who violate isolation rules can be fined up to € 500 ($ 567), and anyone who refuses to perform vaccination status checks could be fined € 1,450.

The new restrictions apply to all people over 12 years of age who have not received two doses of the vaccine. People who have recently recovered from the virus are freed from restraints.

Full proof of vaccination is required to visit public places such as restaurants, hairdressers and Christmas markets. In Vienna, children over the age of six will need to test negative for Covid to be allowed to visit these public places.

When it comes to confirming vaccination status, the Austrian authorities only accept vaccines approved by the European medical regulator – Pfizer-BioNtech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines. Immunization significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death.

Austrian police officers check a man’s identity and vaccination certificate during a check in Vosendorf, Mödling district, Austria, November 16, 2021.

Hans Punz | AFP | Getty Images

Over the weekend in Austria, the number of new cases of the virus hit a record 13,152 in a single day, according to Johns Hopkins University. On Monday, 11,889 people in the country reported new infections.

Around 65% of the Austrian population is fully vaccinated, giving the country the second lowest vaccination rate in Western Europe after Liechtenstein.

In announcing the new lockdown restrictions at a press conference on Sunday, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said the rules would be “very consistently monitored and sanctioned” by the police.

“The situation with the coronavirus in Austria is serious and the fourth wave is just taking over us in full force. The number of new infections in Austria is higher than ever before, ”he told reporters. “The only way to break this pandemic cycle is through vaccinations.”

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said on Twitter on Tuesday that about 15,000 police checks were carried out in Austria on Monday alone.

“About 120 violations have been identified and punished,” he said, adding that the public has demonstrated a high level of cooperation with the authorities.

Police officers monitor compliance with the isolation regime for the unvaccinated on November 15, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria.

Jan Hetfleisch | Getty Images

Despite the conviction of lawmakers that the Austrian police are ready to enforce the ban, the policy has been criticized for being difficult to enforce.

Unvaccinated people are still allowed to leave their homes for several reasons, such as shopping for groceries, commuting to work with a negative virus test, or participating in religious observances.

The blockade is also facing opposition from Austria’s third-largest political party, the right-wing Freedom Party, which called the move a “crown apartheid system” and plans to protest the restrictions in Vienna on Saturday.

Party leader Herbert Kickl said on Facebook on Monday that he tested positive for the coronavirus and that he would be in quarantine due to the event.

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