How will Austria enforce the new lockdown for the unvaccinated?

Police patrol
The main responsibility for checks falls to the police, who can issue fines of up to €1,450 to individuals. Photo: Armando Babani/AFP
As of Monday, people in Austria without proof of Covid-19 vaccination or recovery may only leave their homes for certain specified reasons. But enforcing a partial lockdown is a huge challenge.

This has been seen in the Netherlands, for example, where dozens of businesses in the town of Breda refused to adhere to a newly announced 8pm curfew.

Austria’s new rule is arguably even more difficult to control because it only applies to people who do not have proof of so-called 2G: either full vaccination against Covid-19 or evidence of recovery from the virus in the past 180 days. There are additional exceptions for under-12s who are exempt from the requirement, children aged 12-15 who can instead show a negative test, and people who have had a first dose of a Covid vaccine, who can show this together with a negative PCR test.

That leaves around 1.6 million unvaccinated people affected by the new rules, under which they may only leave their home for certain specified reasons. These include:

  • Essential errands (such as buying food or medicine)
  • Attending work or education
  • Caring for people in need
  • Healthcare, including attending Covid-19 vaccinations
  • Basic religious needs
  • Caring for animals
  • Necessary administrative procedures that cannot be done online
  • Participating in elections
  • Avoiding an immediate danger to life, health or property 

There are also exceptions covering “exercising family rights and duties with close relatives and contacts” and “physical and mental relaxation outdoors with close contacts”.

People without proof of 2G (full vaccination against the virus, or recovery within the last 180 days) had already been banned from restaurants, hairdressers and salons, cinemas and theatres, and large events under rules brought in on November 8th. At those venues, checks should be carried out by business owners.

This means that the main change in practice is that people without 2G are now also banned from non-essential retail, as well as libraries and museums. 

Since the 2G restrictions were introduced last Monday, police have carried out more than 13,000 checks at affected venues and made 200 reports of violations.

Police are responsible for the checks, and at any police checks already being carried out for other reasons, for example traffic controls, police can now ask for proof of 2G.

There will be additional checks focused on areas where people come into close contact with others, such as on public transport, at restaurants, and in busy shopping areas. This effectively means a requirement for people who do meet the 2G criteria to carry valid proof with them when leaving the house.

The fines for violating the lockdown for the unvaccinated are €500, while refusing to participate in checks carries a fine of up to €1,450. Business owners meanwhile face fines of up to €3,600 if they do not check and enforce the 2G rule.

It is even possible to be detained by police in the event of refusal to cooperate. People who refuse to show their ID can be detained until their identity can be established.

The lockdown currently only applies to people without proof of 2G , with the government having repeatedly pledged that a general lockdown will not be introduced.

But that doesn’t mean that vaccinated people will be unaffected by new Covid measures if the situation remains this serious, with hospitals under strain.

Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein has said that one possible new measure for the winter would be an evening curfew that would apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

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