The lockdown is the latest and strictest measure Austrian officials have introduced to combat a fourth surge of infections and deaths.
The new measures, especially the vaccine mandate, have been met with fierce opposition among some. A Saturday protest in the capital city of Vienna drew 40,000 people–concerned citizens but also right-wing extremists and known neo-Nazis–according to police.
But the residents were singing a different tune come Sunaday the day before a national lockdown to combat a surge of coronavirus infections.
The measures, which will take effect early Monday, are expected to last for a maximum of 20 days but will be reevaluated after 10. They require people to stay home apart from basic reasons like getting groceries, going to the doctor and exercising. Restaurants and most shops will close, and larger events will be canceled. Schools and day care centers will remain open, but parents are encouraged to keep their children at home.
Austria hopes to lift the measures on Dec. 13 but may keep a further lockdown on the unvaccinated.
With the lockdown looming, Christmas markets across central Vienna were packed with people eager to buy gifts and enjoy one last round of warm drinks and food.
In an interview Sunday in the newspaper Kurier, Schallenberg said it’s “sad” that the Austrian government had to resort to a mandate in order to ensure that enough people get vaccinated. Just under 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.
“That people’s freedoms need to be restricted again is, believe me, also difficult for me to bear,” he said.