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Austria set to place millions of unvaccinated people in lockdown, as chancellor slams 'shameful' shot uptake

(CNN)Austria is days away from ordering millions of unvaccinated people to stay at home, its chancellor has said, in a rare move that underscores the increasing exasperation of European leaders towards those who have not yet been inoculated against Covid-19.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters on Friday that the government should give the "green light" for the move this weekend.

"The aim is clear: we want on Sunday to give the green light for a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated," Schallenberg said at a news conference in Innsbruck.

He had earlier called the country's vaccination rate "shamefully low," and hinted that the measure would be triggered within days. "In other states that rate is a lot higher -- it is shameful as we have enough vaccines available," Schallenberg said at a separate press conference on Thursday.

His warning came as a wave of Covid-19 infections sweeps central Europe. A three-week partial lockdown was expected to be announced in the Netherlands on Friday evening, Reuters reported, with health officials reporting a rapid rise in cases there.

Norway also announced new measures on Friday, while people in the German capital Berlin are preparing for fresh restrictions that come into place on Monday.

Under Austria's plan, which was agreed in September, unvaccinated Austrians will face a stay-at-home order once 30% of intensive-care beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients. The current rate is 21%, according to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES), and a surge in infections has pushed it up quickly.

Unvaccinated people are already excluded from entertainment venues, restaurants, hairdressers and other parts of public life in Austria. If the new measures come into place, the unvaccinated will be ordered to stay home except for a few limited reasons; the rules will be policed by officers carrying out spot checks on those who are out.

Around 65% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, one of the lower rates in the European Union.

''It is clear that this winter will be uncomfortable for the unvaccinated," Schallenberg warned on Thursday.

"A lockdown for the unvaccinated means one cannot leave one's home unless one is going to work, shopping for essentials, stretching one's legs -- namely exactly what we all had to suffer through in 2020," he said.

After Schallenberg's announcement, the governor of the province of Upper Austria, in the northwest of the country, pushed to introduce the measure in his own province soon. The region is the country's worst-affected area, with Stelzer calling the situation in his province "dramatic."

READ MORE: CNN

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