Politics

Facing a spike in infections, Austria sharpens the rules of its Covid pass.


Austria is tightening the rules of a national vaccine pass program starting Monday as it attempts to stem a coronavirus surge that has brought cases to levels unseen in almost a year.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the changes Friday night, telling reporters after a meeting with state governors: “It is simply our responsibility to protect the people of our country.”

Austrians will need proof of vaccination or a past infection to be seated at a restaurant, enter a bar, visit a hairdresser or join any gathering of more than 25 people. Up until now, documentation of a negative test was also accepted.

The new federal rules match ones that the capital, Vienna, had planned to introduce a few days later, when it will also begin offering the Pfizer vaccine for children of ages 5 to 11, pre-empting a decision by the European medical regulator.

The country’s national health agency reports 522 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the past week — a rate not seen since November of last year, when Austria was forced to go into a full lockdown. Hospitalizations remain below what they were then, however, with about half as many Covid patients in intensive care as during the peak in November 2020, according to health agency figures.

Around 63 percent of people in Austria are fully vaccinated — more than in the United States, but less than in most European Union countries, according to government figures collated by the Our World in Data project.

At the news conference in Vienna on Friday evening, Mr. Schallenberg tried once more to convince Austrians to take the shot.

“With a vaccination we protect not only ourselves, but also our friends, family and colleagues,” he said.



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