Austria bans the unvaccinated from restaurants, hair salons as Covid-19 cases surge

VIENNA (REUTERS) – Austria said on Friday (Nov 5) it is barring those not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 from cafes, restaurants and hairdressers as infections approach the record set a year ago and the government struggles to convince holdouts to get the shot.

Roughly 64 per cent of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, in line with the European Union average but one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, as is the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest party in parliament.

New daily infections have been surging and on Friday reached 9,388, close to the record of 9,586 set a year ago. The government said it expects a new record in the coming days.

“The evolution is exceptional and the occupancies of intensive-care beds are increasing significantly faster than we had expected,” conservative Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference on the new measures that start on Monday.

These include barring the unvaccinated from hotels, events of more than 25 people and, importantly for a country that is a winter sports hotspot, ski lifts.

There will be a four-week transition period in which a first vaccination plus a PCR test will grant admission to places where the unvaccinated will be banned. After that, only the fully vaccinated and those who have recently recovered from a coronavirus infection will be let in.

Friday’s announcement comes a day after a similar move by the city of Vienna, which has the lowest infection rate among Austria’s nine provinces but the highest proportion of intensive-care bed occupied by Covid-19 patients at 20 per cent.

While those dining out will have to show they have been vaccinated, the waiters serving them will not.

“One is a leisure activity undertaken voluntarily. No one forces me to go to the cinema or the restaurant. The other is my place of work,” Schallenberg said.

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