“The situation is dramatic,” regional governor Thomas Stelzer told media on Thursday afternoon.
It comes just a day after he reportedly rejected proposals for this type of measure at a meeting with the Health Minister, and follows calls from several leading medical professionals for a lockdown aimed at unvaccinated people.
People without either proof of vaccination against Covid-19 or recent recovery from the illness are already excluded from parts of society including for example events, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers as of Monday November 8th. A lockdown would mean this group could not leave their homes other than for essential reasons such as going to work, supermarkets, or walking for exercise.
Stelzer said the lockdown would be effective from Monday, November 15th, as long as the federal government confirms this can go ahead from a legal standpoint. Constitutional law professor Andreas Janko told the ORF broadcaster: “The decisive question is whether the current Covid-19 measures allow for such a differentiated lockdown.”
Stelzer also announced an extension of the FFP2 mask mandate, meaning that all staff in retail and catering must wear the masks again for example.
The proposed changes would mean the region will move into level five of Austria’s five-stage national Covid restrictions plan.
The seven-day incidence rate in Upper Austria was at 1,193 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week by Thursday, putting it well above the national average of 761. It also has the lowest vaccination rate Austria-wide at just under 60 percent of the total population.
Austria’s Corona Commission has warned of a “serious threat to medical care” for the whole population, and hospitals in Upper Austria have already reported being under severe strain. One head of an intensive care unit told Die Presse their hospital was already invoking triage, meaning that care was being allocated based on urgency and may not be offered to all patients in need.
We can expect further details on the specifics of the new restrictions — which according to Austrian media reports may also include a more widespread FFP2 mask mandate and new rules to events — on Friday.
Some of the key questions will be how long the lockdown would be imposed and how it would be enforced, something which experts have already said would be difficult after the government added the fifth stage to its five-step Covid restrictions plan.