Austria entered a nationwide lockdown early on Monday to tackle the surge in coronavirus infections, a step closely watched by other European governments grappling with national outbreaks that are straining health systems.

Besides Austria, several countries in Europe have started to impose restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. In India, even as cases are declining, experts have asked not to neglect COVID-19 standards.

According to Dr Naveet Wig, chairman of the COVID task force at the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the current situation looks like the time before the second wave hit the country. “

Looking around, the feeling is that we have overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and the general public has let their guard down. This is similar to the situation before the second wave hit India, “Dr Wig said in an interview with ANI.

“The past one and a half years of COVID have taught us a lot, the most important of which is not to underestimate the possibility of a new wave. It is important to be on our guard because the next wave could be lurking around the corner. from the street, “he added.

Dr Wig further explained the resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe and said: “Europe is facing a resurgent wave of COVID-19, which is forcing closures and restrictions across the continent. The record level of infections and the impressive number of hospitalizations are forcing authorities to revert to strict measures, which seemed unlikely, until the recent past. “

Welcoming the country’s efforts to step up vaccination campaigns against Covid and efforts to reduce the rate of infection, he said: “Closer to home, the situation has improved a lot with the number of new infections showing A downward trajectory for several weeks now. The authorities have done well to intensify the vaccination campaign and gradually remove the restrictions gradually. “

Lifting a sign of caution, the founder and director of the Ujala Cygnus hospital group, Dr Shuchin Bajaj, noted that the reason for the second wave was laxity on the part of the population and said it was time to take precautions.

“The holiday and wedding seasons are the times when we must adhere to the Covid guidelines. Our neglect can lead to a serious situation. We have already seen how our ignorance of adhering to the Covid-19 guidelines led to the second deadly wave. So in times of celebration as well, we need to follow appropriate Covid behaviors including social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands to avoid the emergence of the third wave. Fully vaccinated people should also follow the guidelines. directives diligently, ”Dr. Bajaj told ANI.

“It is important that public messages continue to encourage compliance with these measures. It is also imperative that people complete their vaccination. In addition, we should also consider an additional booster dose of the vaccine for those most at risk, such as those over the age of 60. years are immunocompromised and have comorbidities, ”Dr. Wig suggested.

Dr Parinita Kaur, internal medicine doctor at Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, said that whenever there is a large gathering there is always a risk of exposure to infection.

“A large number of people attend gatherings like weddings. So if gatherings take place, not only as many people as possible will travel from one city or state to another, but also from country to country. other, ”she said.

“This will cause an influx of people from other parts of the world and the infection could spread in such a scenario. Whether it is flu, COVID or any other infection, the number of cases increases if it happens. “exposure to infected people. The same happened earlier with pigs The infection has spread through gatherings like weddings,” she added.

Dr Kaur further noted that COVID-19 cases tend to increase after festivals like Diwali and Holi, as previously observed. “The same has not been observed after Diwali this year, but that does not mean that we are lowering our guards. If we are attending a wedding, we must follow COVID guidelines like wearing masks and using disinfectant so as not to not expose us to infection, ”she said.

Situation in Austria

The measurements should last a maximum of 20 days, but will be reassessed after 10 days. They force people to stay home for basic reasons like shopping for groceries, going to the doctor, and exercising. Restaurants and most stores must close and larger events will be canceled. Schools and daycares can remain open, but parents are encouraged to keep their children at home.

Austria hopes to lift the measures on December 13, but could maintain an additional lockdown for the unvaccinated.

The new lockdown measures were launched a day after many Austrians hastily enjoyed a final day at cafes and Christmas markets across the country.

Christmas markets in central Vienna were packed on Sunday with people eager to shop for gifts and enjoy a final round of hot drinks and food. At the Freyung Christmas Market in Vienna, Alexandra Ljesevic and her sister Anna sipped mulled wine and punch amid wooden stands and sparkling holiday lights.

“This is the last chance to feel the time and the vibes of Christmas,” said Alexandra Ljesevic.

The sisters said they felt luckier than most because their jobs would not be affected by the lockdown. But they’re not optimistic about reopening things as quickly as authorities hope.

“It would be weird if in 20 days they said, okay for the vaccinated people you are free to go,” if the hospitals are still overwhelmed, ”said Anna Ljesevic. we even need the lockdown. ”Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg also announced on Friday that Austria will also introduce a vaccine mandate from February 1. Details of how the mandate will work are not yet clear.

In an interview with the Kurier newspaper on Sunday, Schallenberg said it was “sad” that the Austrian government had to resort to a warrant in order to ensure that a sufficient number of people get vaccinated. Just under 66% of the 8.9 million Austrians are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.

Austria reported 15,297 new infections on Saturday, after a week in which daily cases topped 10,000. Hospitals, especially those in the hardest-hit areas of Salzburg and Upper Austria, are overwhelmed as the number of coronavirus patients rises in intensive care units.

Schallenberg said he and other officials had hoped this summer that a new lockdown would not be necessary and that it was a difficult decision to impose one that affected those who were vaccinated.

“That people’s freedoms have to be curtailed again is, believe me, also hard for me to endure,” he said.

The new measures, in particular the mandate on vaccines, have met strong opposition among some Austrians and vaccine skeptics. A protest in the capital Vienna on Saturday drew 40,000 people, police said, including members of far-right parties and groups.

Home Secretary Karl Nehammer said on Sunday the country’s anti-coronavirus protest scene was radicalizing.

An “extremely diverse group of people” took part in the anti-vaccination protests, Nehammer said, according to the Austrian news agency, adding that it included concerned citizens but also right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis.

The lockdown is the toughest measure Austrian authorities have introduced to tackle the fourth wave of infections and deaths. Earlier this month, the government first attempted to pressure unvaccinated people to receive the vaccine, denying them access to restaurants, hotels and major events. Then, authorities implemented lockdown measures only for unvaccinated people.

Nehammer said on Sunday that police carried out 150,000 checks in just one week to see if people outside their homes were complying with the new rules, according to the APA.

At the Sunday Christmas market on Vienna’s iconic Rathausplatz square, Rene Schlosser and Silvia Weidenauer sipped mulled wine from red heart-shaped mugs. They came for the day from their home in the Austrian region of Waldviertel to get a taste of the markets before everything stopped.

“You have to accept it,” Weidenauer said of the lockdown. “There is no other option. All you can do is hope that these days when everything is closed will really have an effect.”

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Posted on: Monday November 22, 2021 09:59 IST


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