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Austria infuriates many with full lockdown, Germany warns it may follow suit


VIENNA AUSTRIA, OCTOBER 26: A crowd gathers with placards and banners in protest of COVID-19 and vaccination measures following an increase in cases over the past few days.

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Austria, which announced Friday it would be the first west European country to implement a Covid-19 lockdown full-time, came as Germany threatened it might do the same, sending shockwaves through financial markets concerned about the potential economic downturn.

Europe is once again the center of pandemics, responsible for nearly half the global deaths and cases. Germany is Europe’s most populous country and has been hit by a fourth wave of infectious diseases. Jens Spahn, Germany’s Health Minister said that this crisis has prompted a declaration of national emergency. He warned that only vaccinations can reduce the number of cases.

Austria declared that, in addition the lockdown, all citizens would need to have their vaccines starting Feb. 1. These decisions angered many people in an area where there is high skepticism regarding state mandates that affect individual freedoms, aided by the Freedom Party, which is the third largest party in parliament.

Herbert Kickl is the leader of the party and posted a Facebook photo with the message: “As far as today Austria’s a dictatorship.” Kickl was positive for Covid-19 and the party plans to protest Saturday.

Only about two thirds of Austrians who are eligible for vaccination against Covid-19 have been fullyvaccinated. It is among the lowest rates in Europe. With a 7-day incidence rate of 991 for every 100,000, it is one of the most common infections in Europe.

“We have not succeeded to convince enough people to get vaccined,” Alexander Schallenberg, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic said in a news conference. He indicated that Monday would be the start of the lockdown and that vaccinations will become mandatory on Tuesday.

“It is painful that such steps still need to be taken.

Spahn answered a question about whether Germany can prevent an Austrian-style total lockdown.

“We’re in a crisis of national importance,” he said at a news conference.

The threat of fresh lockdowns comes as optimism grows about experimental drugs developed by Pfizer and Merck that cut the chance of hospitalization and severe illness, more weapons in the world’s fight against the virus.

Friday’s statement by the EU Drug Regulator stated that Pfizer’s Covid-19 Pill data was being reviewed to aid member states in deciding on swift adoption, ahead of any official EU-wide approval. 

On Friday, looming lockdowns had a significant impact on several financial markets sectors. This led to stocks and oil falling and the dollar rising. 

Oxford Economics analysts stated in a note that they expect specific measures against Covid-19 to be taken across certain countries, primarily based on the country’s health, but also considering other factors such as political and domestic situations.

It might be a while until a political consensus is reached in other nations, but it’s clear that it has.

Christmas puzzle

As cases rise again, a number of European governments have started to reimpose limits on activity, ranging from Austria’s full lockdown to a partial lockdown in the Netherlands and restrictions on the unvaccinated in parts of Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Niels van Regenmortel (ZNA Stuivenberg Hospital in Antwerp), is the coordinator of intensive care units. Given the high number of Covid-19 patients, there’s a rising risk that Belgian hospitals may have to resort the to triage.

The decision of countries to lock themselves down or to openly allow them to do so depends on many factors including the vaccination rate, mandates for masks, and availability of booster shots.

Germany stated that further measures would be taken based upon the threshold at which hospitalizations exceed certain levels. France’s President Emmanuel Macron stated that he believed high vaccine levels were sufficient to avoid further lockdowns.

Britain is home to a greater number of infected people than any other country in Europe. To counter the decline and maintain the economy’s openness, third shots (or boosters) are now being used.

Although the economic impact of the European new measures is not as severe as last year’s all-out lockdowns, analysts believe they will have an effect on recovery, particularly if they affect the hospitality and retail sectors during Christmas.

However, a complete lockdown in Germany is more severe.

Michael Hewson chief market analyst for CMC Markets UK stated, “With Germany…imposing new restrictions….any thoughts that the vaccines might offer a path to a more regular Christmas period seem to have gone up, at least in Europe,”.

“Although it is an nagging worry this could ripple across the region,”

Spahn stressed that Germany’s intensive care units are not under pressure yet and encouraged people to decrease their contacts in order to break this cycle. It is impossible to predict how Christmas will unfold. It’s up for us to decide,” he said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday Germany will limit large parts of public life in areas where hospitals are becoming dangerously full of Covid-19 patients to those who have either been vaccinated or have recovered from the illness.

Lawrence Young (virologist, Professor of Molecular Oncology at University of Warwick) stated: “It is clear from our experiences in England and what’s happening throughout Europe that although vaccines do a lot of work, other interventions are needed to keep case numbers from rising.”

High case rates in Europe are also caused by a decrease in mask-wearing, increased indoor mixing due to colder temperatures and declining immunity.