Austria is to become the first country in Europe to make COVID vaccines mandatory by law and has announced a full national lockdown from Monday, amid a fourth wave sweeping the continent.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said the lockdown would run for a “maximum of 20 days”.
He also announced it would be a “requirement to get vaccinated” from 1 February.
The country had already introduced a series of strict measures along with Germany and Slovakia in the weeks leading up to Christmas, as a debate intensifies over whether vaccines alone are enough to tackle coronavirus.
Around 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.
And the infection rate is among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971.5 per 100,000 people, and daily cases keep setting records.
Two states in Austria – Salzburg and Upper Austria – had already triggered a range of restrictions, with the rules extended to apply to vaccinated people and a full lockdown from next week that would see schools shut and a curfew imposed.
Last week, Europe accounted for more than half of the seven-day average of infections globally and about half of the latest deaths, according to a tally by Reuters news agency.
It comes after German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced fresh curbs on public life for those who have not had a vaccine in areas where hospitals are filling dangerously fast with coronavirus patients.
And Greece has also imposed more restrictions on unvaccinated people following a recent surge in cases – barring them from all indoor spaces, such as cinemas, museums, and gyms.
The death rate from the virus has reached its highest level in six months, as roughly one-third of Greece’s population remains unvaccinated.