As COVID-19 infections continue to rise in parts of Europe, the government of Austria has taken the shocking step of imposing a nationwide lockdown of the unvaccinated as of Monday, as CBS News reports.
According to Reuters, the new restrictions provide that anyone age 12 and older who has not received vaccination against the coronavirus will be permitted to leave their residences only for work, to purchase essential goods such as groceries, to go for a stroll, or to get their jabs.
The lockdown will not apply to those deemed fully vaccinated or those who have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection, and it is initially slated to last for a period of 10 days.
Police will reportedly be dispatched to verify the status of those they encounter outside, and those found violating the new rules are subject to fines of 1,450 euros, or the equivalent of around $1,660.
The latest expansion of restrictions adds to rules announced back on Nov. 5 that barred unvaccinated individuals from availing themselves of hotels, restaurants, ski lifts, theaters, and a range of other public facilities.
According to a report from the BBC, Austria currently has one of the lowest vaccination rates in all of Western Europe at roughly 65% of residents having received full doses, and the country’s seven-day infection rate has jumped to a level that puts it near the top for the entire region.
In discussing the drastic actions during a press conference on Sunday, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg declared, “In reality, we have told one-third of the population: You will not leave your apartment anymore apart from for certain reasons. That is a massive reduction in contacts between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.”
As the BBC noted, however, the move is being met with resistance from many, with hundreds of protestors amassing over the weekend in Vienna, displaying placards with the slogan “Our bodies, our freedom to decide,” and one demonstrator explaining her belief that “it is totally discriminatory what is happening here.”
With vaccine mandates in the United States currently the subject of intense debate – not to mention significant litigation that has already resulted in a stay on its enactment – the case of Austria serves as a cautionary tale on how easily concern about the virus can descend into authoritarian edicts that violate the most basic of civil liberties.