Europe’s fourth Covid wave has sparked a heated debate over whether Covid-19 vaccines alone are enough to tame the deadly virus as some countries move to exclusively lockdown those who aren't immunised.
The unvaccinated are driving an alarming surge in infections as temperatures fall ahead of the winter months, threatening economic recoveries and Christmas breaks across the continent.
Case numbers have surged to the highest levels since April last year, with Europe accounting for more than half the global seven-day average and about half of the latest deaths, according to Reuters.
Austria takes strong stance against unvaccinated
Austria has thrust some two million unvaccinated people back into lockdown, following a disturbing 134 per cent jump in cases over the past two weeks.
Anyone over the age of 12 who isn’t protected faces tough new restrictions which only allow them to leave their homes for limited reasons such as travelling for work or essential shopping.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, with only 65 per cent of the population fully protected.
"My aim is very clear: to get the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, not to lock up the unvaccinated," Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told ORF radio as he explained the lockdown.
Germany to impose stricter rules
It’s a pattern being replicated across Europe, with similar restrictions imposed in Germany’s capital Berlin.
The country’s leaders are due to meet this week to discuss additional measures to combat the rapid spread of the virus.
Germany isn’t far ahead of Austria in terms of vaccinations with only 68 per cent of its population fully immunised.
Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a desperate plea for the unvaccinated to roll up their sleeves, warning of the “difficult” weeks ahead.
“You can see that I am very worried," she told viewers of her weekly video podcast.
France, the Netherlands and many countries in Eastern Europe are also struggling to contain ballooning infections.
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