Comment: First Austria, then Bavaria, now Saxony: The pandemic reality is overturning the political promises

Vienna, main train station

Austria imposes a lockdown.

(Foto: imago images/

It is a double break in taboos in Austria: just a week ago, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg described a lockdown for those who had been vaccinated as showing no solidarity. Now the country will probably go to a complete standstill for three weeks from Monday: restaurants and most shops are closed, children at home if possible. The times are over, we all thought. The example of Austria shows: from because of.

The second taboo breach is the mandatory Covid vaccination from February. Austria is the first country in Europe to take this path. Just a few days ago, the government made vaccination compulsory for health professionals. Now everyone should be made responsible. The government in Vienna has radically changed its beliefs at an immense pace.

Is mandatory vaccination constitutionally tenable? Are all of these measures proportionate? All the arguments that we are currently hearing in Germany in the debate about which measures, given a vaccination rate of around 70 percent, are the right ones on the fine line between protection and freedom, they have also fallen in Austria.

Now the Chancellor and Health Minister in Austria are arguing: We can no longer do otherwise. You speak of “painful steps” and “lived sense of responsibility”.

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A look at the developments in the neighboring country shows one thing above all: This late autumn we slipped into an uncontrolled situation again, in which the pandemic reality is overwhelming the announcements of the politicians. And not only in Austria, but also in Germany. That will be clear by this Friday at the latest.

Taboos have also been broken in Germany

With the compulsory vaccination for medical professions and once again closed clubs in the first federal states, the first taboos were broken again in this country in the course of the measures adopted by the Prime Minister’s Conference on Thursday.

In Bavaria, Christmas markets will be closed, visits to cultural and sporting events will be restricted and public life will be shut down in Corona hotspots. Saxony followed suit on Friday evening, handling it more or less just as strictly. And Hessen also announced a tightening of its corona rules less later.

We should be prepared for the fact that further restrictions will follow no later than the agreed meeting on December 9th, at which the Prime Minister and the Federal Government want to evaluate and adjust the previous pandemic steps.

As Managing Minister of Health, Jens Spahn (CDU) is no longer ruling out a complete lockdown.

Little by little, the new federal government and the prime ministers of the federal states will accept the pandemic reality and break further taboos. The lockdown, which was to be avoided with the vaccinations as a step that profoundly restricts our freedom, it comes and is in parts – see Bavaria, see Saxony – here again.

Austria decides on lockdown and compulsory vaccination

Politicians will have the hardest part with a U-turn in the compulsory Covid vaccination for everyone. The promises that there would be no compulsory vaccination were too clear.

But Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) also broke the taboo here on Friday. Without the compulsory vaccination, the corona endless loop never ends, he argues.

The blame for breaking taboos is the fact that German politics took countermeasures much too late in the election year, and hopes that higher vaccination rates will somehow fix it. When France started 3G restrictions on trains and Italy made 3G mandatory in the workplace, warnings in this country went unheard.

Now the efforts to contain the pandemic, the booster vaccinations and the 3G and 2G regulations are unlikely to work quickly enough. And in three weeks – maybe even earlier, after all, Markus Söder in Munich and Michael Kretschmer in Dresden already kicked off on Friday – we will hear similar arguments in Germany as we are now in Austria: We simply cannot do otherwise.

More: How other countries are better managing the pandemic

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