Austria will counter a new record COVID-19 surge by placing millions of unvaccinated citizens under lockdown, its government announced Sunday, Nov. 14.

“We are not taking this step lightly, but unfortunately it is necessary,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said, per the BBC.

The measurement is set to go into effect as soon as Monday and remain for 10 days. Following the mandate, the unvaccinated population will not be allowed to leave their homes unless for work or grocery shopping. 

Before the lockdown, unimmunized citizens are already prohibited from going to restaurants, hairdressers, and cinemas. Those under 12 and recently recovered patients are exempt from the mandate.

It applies to people of legitimate age for receiving the jabs, who can be as young as 12-year-old. Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with only about 65% of the population fully immunized.  The Associated Press noted the policy will affect nearly 2 million people.

Breaching the mandate will result in a fine of up to 1,450 euros ($1,660). Schallenberg said the law enforcement will be on the lookout for persons who have not been vaccinated as they patrol the streets.

The European country is reporting one of the highest infection rates in the region, with a seven-day new cases rate of 815 instances per 100,000 people, according to Reuters. That figure in its bordering Germany stands at 289.

As of Sunday, the nation reported 11,552 new infections and 17 new fatalities. The news agency noted its hospitals were being overstrained because of the outbreak. 

Schallenberg attributed the new wave of coronavirus to the unvaccinated population, AP reported. 

“The rate for the unvaccinated is at over 1,700, while for the vaccinated it is at 383,” he said, adding that people should also get their booster shot or “we will never get out of this vicious circle.”

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