UK 'could lock down unvaccinated' like European countries, claims expert

·Freelance Writer
·4-min read

Watch: UK 'could' lockdown unvaccinated people

The UK could follow the lead of Austria, Germany and Slovakia in locking down the country for unvaccinated people, a medical expert has suggested.

Austria on Monday introduced restrictions for people who had not been given the COVID jab, following a spike in cases. 

And Germany is set to follow a similar path, with an announcement expected in the next few days.

Case rates in the UK remain lower than many of its European cousins but John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, has said it “may” be the case that lockdowns for the unvaccinated would be needed here.

Asked what he thought about locking down people who had not had the jab, he told Good Morning Britain on Thursday: “I fear that it might come to that.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10: A member of the medical team prepares a series of doses of the Covid-19 vaccination booster jab at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health & Wellbeing Centre on November 10, 2021 in the Stratford area of London, England. Over 10 million people have now received their Covid-19 vaccine boosters in the UK, as the government has allowed people over 50 and the clinically vulnerable to receive third jabs. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
A member of the medical team prepares a series of doses of the COVID vaccination booster jab at the Sir Ludwig Guttmann Health and Wellbeing Centre in London. (Getty)

“We all need to be playing our part, and at the moment, it’s as though the thing is over. We really need to get back to wearing masks, social distancing and yes, passports.

“This is not about civil rights, it’s about winning the battle with this virus and not throwing in the towel.”

Austria has one of the highest infection rates on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 971 per 100,000 people, with more restrictions – both at regional and national level – being considered.

On Thursday, the country announced a full lockdown for the two most affected provinces of Salzburg and Upper Austria from next week.

Slovakia has also announced a lockdown for the unvaccinated as it reported record daily cases of around 6,500 in recent days.

In Germany, where a partial lockdown is set to be announced this week, 65,371 new COVID cases were reported on Thursday – an increase of one third from week ago.

On whether the UK will follow the lead of Austria, Slovakia and Germany, Ashton he added: “I think we may well come to that.

“But we really should be getting our secondary school kids with second vaccines before Christmas, we should be beginning to vaccinate primary school children.

John Ashton believes the UK will have to implement restrictions for unvaccinated people. (PA)
John Ashton believes the UK will have to implement restrictions for unvaccinated people. (PA)

“There are still millions of people who are not double vaccinated in the UK. And that’s a problem because the virus is still circulating, and while the virus is circulating, there is the potential for more mutations.”

In Austria, two million unvaccinated residents have been plunged into a 10-day lockdown, with permission to leave home limited to a small number of reasons such as going to work or buying food. 

Slovakia is one of Europe's least vaccinated countries, with 45% of population vaccinated compared to the EU average of 64.9%, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Austrian police officers check a man's identity and vaccination certificate during a control in Voesendorf, district Moedling, Austria, on November 16, 2021, during the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. - Austrian Chancellor Schallenberg told AFP that the
Austrian police officers check a man's identity and vaccination certificate during a control in Vösendorf, near Vienna. (Getty)

In an effort to get more people to come forward for their jab, Slovakian prime minister Eduard Heger said the government would allow only vaccinated people to attend large events, and set rules for testing at workplaces.

Non-essential shops and services, sports, wellness and hotels will be open only for vaccinated people or those who had overcome COVID in the past six months.

Boris Johnson has so far resisted calls from some to implement the government’s tougher Plan B for winter lockdown, saying the data did not show, at the moment, that any additional measures were needed.

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - NOVEMBER 15: Police officers monitor compliance with the lockdown in Innsbruck's old town during the first day of a nationwide lockdown for people not yet vaccinated against the novel coronavirus on November 15, 2021 in Innsbruck, Austria. Starting today unvaccinated people may only leave their homes for a worthy reason, including going to work, buying groceries, going to the doctor or getting a vaccine shot. Austria is struggling to bring down a Covid infection rate that has reached over 770 infections per 100,000 people over a seven-day period. (Photo by Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)
Austrian police officers monitor compliance with the lockdown in Innsbruck's old town during the first day of a nationwide lockdown for people not yet vaccinated. (Getty)

However, he could not rule out a Christmas lockdown when questioned this week, warning that “storm clouds” forming in Europe could only be avoided if people had their booster jab.

The government said a further 201 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for COVID as of Wednesday, bringing the UK total to 143,360.

As of 9am on Wednesday, there had been a further 38,263 lab-confirmed COVID cases in the UK – a drop from 39,329 on the same day last week.

Watch: PM: The unvaccinated will make all the difference to Christmas

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