Austrian COVID cases hit record on third day of lockdown for unvaccinated

People walk at the entrance of a shop after the Austrian government placed roughly two million people who are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on lockdown, in Vienna, Austria, November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

VIENNA, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Austrian coronavirus infections hit a new daily record on Wednesday, the third day of a lockdown for those not fully vaccinated aimed at halting the surge.

Roughly 65% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against the virus, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Austria also has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 925 per 100,000 people.

Soaring infections across Europe as winter approaches are prompting governments to consider reintroducing unpopular lockdowns. In contrast to the Netherlands, which has ordered a partial lockdown that applies to all, Austria has sought to avoid placing extra restrictions on the fully vaccinated.

Daily infections rose to 14,416 on Wednesday, official data showed, the first time they have passed the 14,000 mark. The peak of the biggest wave of infections before this was 9,586 about a year ago, when the country went into full lockdown.

Having barred the unvaccinated from places including restaurants, hotels, theatres and ski lifts 10 days ago, the government ordered a lockdown under which roughly two million people not fully vaccinated can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons.

Those include going to work, shopping for essentials and "stretching your legs" with no limit on time or distance. Given those sweeping categories, there are doubts about whether the lockdown can be properly enforced and whether it will succeed in countering the surge in infections.

The situation is worst in two of Austria's nine provinces, Upper Austria and Salzburg, where hospitals are coming under increasing strain. Salzburg has said it is preparing for a triage situation when the number of people needing intensive care beds exceeds supply, though that stage has not yet been reached.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Nick Macfie

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