A Covid surge across Europe has instigated a new series of lockdown measures and vaccine mandates across the continent. Austria initiated a national lockdown on Friday as France’s Industry Minister Agnes Panniere-Runacher also announced that they were “very cautiously” watching the continent’s climbing Covid-19 infection rates.
“The situation seems to be, and as you can see I am cautious, slightly better than in Austria and than in Germany. maybe it is because we have achieved a level of vaccination coverage that is quite high,” Pannier-Ranacher said to CNBC, noting that France was ahead in Europe’s tough battle against Covid.
“We have some kind of tight control on the sanitary situation but obviously we will follow that closely in the coming days.”
Austria heightened its anti-Covid measures on Friday, establishing perhaps the most stringent restrictions in western Europe as it prepares to introduce a vaccine mandate for its entire adult population come February.
Austria’s new lockdown will begin on Monday and is set to last for 10 days, but could potentially be extended to 20 days. This lockdown applies to both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, and follows Austria’s previous lockdown which prevented the unvaccinated for going outside for non-essential reasons.
The lockdowns for unvaccinated people began Monday. Austria currently has the lowest amount of fully vaccinated citizens of any western European country, with 64% of Austrians fully vaccinated.
France has a slightly higher vaccination rate than Austria, with 69% of its adult population having received the jab. Germany’s vaccination rate currently trails behind at 68%.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named Europe the center of the Covid-19 pandemic as of November 2021.
European politicians urge vaccination as Covid surges across the continent
Politicians from all three countries agree that vaccination is the most vital tool we have in the ongoing pandemic, with Pannier-Ranacher saying that:
“This is today the only weapon we have against this virus and it seems to be quite effective even if it is not perfect.”
Germany has not introduced a new lockdown just yet, but strengthened its rules for unvaccinated people in the state of Saxony. The new rules, called 2G, only permit those who are fully vaccinated or have previously had Covid to participate in indoor dining and have access to clubs and bars. An unvaccinated person can not test out of the restrictions in order to get inside such spaces, as was previously allowed.
When asked at a press conference if the country may follow in the footsteps of Austria, Health Minister Jens Spahn said that “We are now in a situation – even if this produces a news alert – where we can’t rule anything out.”
Covid infections are currently the highest they’ve ever been in Germany, with hospitals forced to send Covid patients to other countries so they can receive proper care:
“Last week, on Wednesday or Thursday, we had to transfer a patient by helicopter to Merano,” said Thomas Marx, a doctor working in Bavaria, “We had no more capacity to receive them, and the surrounding Bavarian hospitals were also full.”