Austria to step up checks as new COVID rules take effect

BERLIN (AP) — Austrian authorities said Monday they are stepping up police checks to enforce new rules under which unvaccinated people who haven’t had COVID-19 are barred from restaurants, hotels, hairdressing salons and large public events.

The rules, which were announced on Friday night, took effect on Monday across the country of 8.9 million people. They are a response to a rapidly rising infection rate, which on Monday stood at 635 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days — over three times the level in neighboring Germany.

The government foresees a four-week transition period to encourage the unvaccinated to get shots. During that time, anyone who has received one vaccine dose and has a negative PCR test will be allow to attend events and enter the listed locations and events. About 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said that 800 police officers tasked with checking compliance with the COVID-19 rules will be added to some 4,000 officers who are already on regular patrols.

“For those who keep to all the measures, it’s more than unfair if there are people who think they can simply circumvent or even fool health authorities, the health ministry and experts’ guidelines,” Nehammer said.

A customer who flouts the rules can face a fine of up to 500 euros ($578), while a business can be fined up to 30,000 euros ($34,700) if customers aren’t certified as vaccinated or having recovered from COVID-19.

The government has said that, if the situation continues to worsen, further restrictions for unvaccinated people could follow.

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