Covid latest: Austria locks down, Germany issues dire warning

By Sheena McKenzie, CNN

Updated 10:56 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021
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10:56 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Austria's ski lifts stay open despite lockdown

From CNN's Nina Avramova

Police patrols 'Am Graben' shopping street on the first day of a nationwide, temporary lockdown during the fourth wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic on November 22nd, 2021 in Vienna, Austria.
Police patrols 'Am Graben' shopping street on the first day of a nationwide, temporary lockdown during the fourth wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic on November 22nd, 2021 in Vienna, Austria. (Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)

Under Austria's new lockdown measures, which went into effect today, people are only able to leave their homes for specific reasons, such as shopping for essential goods, exercise, work or seeing close contacts, according to the ministry of health website.

But for those who exercise on the Alpine slopes, there is good news — ski lifts will be open through the lockdown, according to a ministry of health spokesperson. Winter sports enthusiasts will have to show proof of either vaccination or a certificate of recovery. FFP2 masks are also mandatory in closed-space lifts, like gondolas, according to a spokesperson for the ministry of arts, culture and sports, the spokesperson added.

Winter is just starting in the Alps, and there is limited snow on the slopes so far.

National lockdown: Austria on Monday became the first nation in the European Union to go into full lockdown this autumn.

The 20-day national lockdown came into force at midnight, meaning all people -- vaccinated or not -- can only leave their homes for essential reasons. The lockdown will be reviewed after an initial 10 days, as per law.

The tough new restrictions come as the country battles a surge in Covid-19 infections. Last week Austria's seven-day incidence rate passed 1,000 per 1000,000 inhabitants for the first time during the pandemic, according to the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES).

On Tuesday, the country of roughly 9 million also reported 16,717 cases -- its highest number of cases in a single day.

Just under 66% of the population are fully vaccinated -- one of western Europe's lower rates -- according to figures from the Ministry of Health, last updated on Saturday. However the vaccination rate curve has been increasing in recent days, ministry data shows.

9:20 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

President Macron warns of "very explosive" situation on French-Caribbean island

From CNN’s Joseph Ataman and Anaëlle Jonah in Paris

French President Emmanuel Macron gives a speech on November 22 in Amiens, France.
French President Emmanuel Macron gives a speech on November 22 in Amiens, France. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed on Monday to boost vaccination in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, amid what he described as a "very explosive situation" on the Caribbean island, with growing tensions over mandatory shots.

Our priority is to continue to convince [the island’s population] that vaccination is the best protection," Macron said.

Guadeloupe's vaccination rate last week stood at 33% of the total population -- well below the overall French rate of 75.1%.

Unions in the French-Caribbean island called a general strike last Monday in response to the government mandating vaccines for healthcare workers and the health pass, or "pass sanitaire." Protesters blocked roads and clashed with police throughout the week.

Some 200 police officers and gendarmes, as well as 50 officers from two elite tactical units, were deployed to the island to reinforce local police units, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter. In total, 2,250 police personnel are working to maintain order on the island.

These elite tactical units are responsible for counter-terrorism, hostage recovery situations and fighting organized crime, and are similar to the FBI’s S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams.

Macron said that the unrest on Guadeloupe was "tied to a very local context," and linked to "historic tensions."

France's overseas territories have long had a difficult relationship with the mainland, due in part to the history of French slavery and the territories' relative poverty compared to France's per capita GDP.  

9:15 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

White House keeps its mask mandate in place as Washington rolls back district's masking rules

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

The White House will keep its mask mandate in place on its grounds even as Washington, DC lifts its indoor mask requirement starting Monday -- a contrast that highlights the uneven messaging many Americans are receiving on Covid-19.

The nation's capital remains an area with "substantial" community transmission, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is currently at a rate of about 90 new weekly cases per 100,000 residents. That's led the White House to keep its strict masking rules in place even as the district around it starts to relax its own rules.

The White House follows CDC guidance, which recommends masking in areas of high or substantial transmission," Kevin Munoz, White House assistant press secretary, told CNN.

Mixed messages: But DC Mayor Muriel Bowser is bucking the CDC recommendations and announced last week the district would be relaxing its requirements, pointing to low hospitalization rates as a result of vaccinations. The reaction to this announcement was mixed, and some voiced concern about what it meant for the city's most vulnerable residents.

The differing guidelines within the nation's capital reflect just how much mask requirements vary from place to place, and how many Americans are currently navigating a patchwork of mitigation efforts. It's a messaging problem the Biden administration has been fighting ever since the spring, when public health officials began to relax their recommendations to stop the spread of Covid-19 as cases dropped and vaccinations increased.

Read the full story here.

8:47 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

South Korea's schools make full return to in-person classes, as Covid cases surge

From CNN’s Yoonjung Seo in Seoul

People line up to take swab tests for Covid-19 in Seoul, South Korea, on November 18.
People line up to take swab tests for Covid-19 in Seoul, South Korea, on November 18. (Wang Yiliang/Xinhua/Getty Images)

South Korean schools made a full return to in-person classes from Monday, as part of the government's "living with Covid-19" policy.

The measures aim to "bring back normal educational activities and to help students struggling with the psychological or emotional impact of the prolonged Covid-19 situation," according to an Education Ministry statement explaining the decision.

Living with the virus: South Korea began easing its Covid-19 restrictions on November 1 as the first step in the "living with Covid-19" policy, which also included the lifting of curfews for all businesses except for night clubs and karaoke bars. 

The restrictions are to be eased in three six-week phases. At the end of each phase, the government will evaluate the Covid-19 situation. In the second phase, all business curfews will be lifted; in the third phase, restrictions on private gatherings will be removed, according to the Health Ministry.

Cases increase: Since South Korea began its "living with Covid-19" plan, the country's daily Covid-19 caseload has been on the rise.

Confirmed daily cases were above 3,000 for six consecutive days last week, peaking at 3,292. Meanwhile, the number of Covid-19 patients in serious condition, requiring intensive care or help with breathing, hovered around 500.

On Monday, the total number of patients in serious condition stood at 515, according to a Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) release. 

South Korea reported 2,827 daily new cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 418,252, and total deaths to 3,298, since the start of the pandemic. 

According to the KDCA, 82.3% of the population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 78.9% of the population has received a second shot. 


8:32 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Almost 100 million vaccine doses begin to arrive in Africa from Europe

From CNN's Amy Cassidy

Almost 100 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the European Union, Norway and Iceland have begun arriving in African countries, according to a statement published by the GAVI vaccine alliance Monday. 

The batch of 99.6 million doses, to be delivered by year-end, marks a step towards the bloc's promise to share at least 500 million doses by mid 2022 through the global COVAX scheme, designed to enable equitable access to vaccines.  

"The first doses have reached Niger, with more doses arriving in a number of countries this week," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in the statement. "We will keep on sharing vaccines. At the same time, we support the build-up of global vaccine manufacturing capacities, especially in Africa."

Approximately 6% of Africa’s entire population has been vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the World Health Organisation. By comparison, the EU has vaccinated 65.5% of its population, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. 

7:51 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Surge in appointments at Austria's biggest vaccination center

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz, Jo Shelley and Salma Abdelaziz in Vienna

Austria's biggest vaccination center has seen a “massive increase” in people getting jabs since the country introduced sweeping Covid-19 restrictions in the run-up to Christmas, an official at the Vienna site told CNN.

“We have a massive increase [in people coming to get a shot] and 15 to 20% are first time shots,” Bernhard Schwarz, chief of operations, said Sunday. 
Schwarz said the surge in first-time shots “started with the lockdown for the unvaccinated, so we can really tell [there has been] an increase since more measures are being taken [against the unvaccinated]," he said.

Austria introduced a lockdown for the unvaccinated last week, before becoming the first European country to reenter a full national lockdown Monday.

Austria’s Health Minister, Wolfgang Mückstein, told the public broadcaster ORF on Sunday that "the lockdown for the unvaccinated will continue" even after the full national lockdown ends. 

Meanwhile the Austrian region of Salzburg has recorded its highest level of new vaccinations in months.

The region, on the border with Germany, last week recorded 40,000 vaccinations, according to local authorities. It is slightly higher than the previous weekly record of 38,000 vaccinations, set in June.

Salzburg regional authorities have planned around 100 events to encourage vaccine takeup and is calling on all people aged 18 and over to get a booster shot now.  

But not everyone lining up for appointments is pleased with the ramped-up vaccine campaign.

One man called Jaruslav, who declined to give his last name, received his first shot at Vienna's vaccine center on Sunday. Afterwards, he told CNN that restrictions targeting the unvaccinated amounted to “blackmail."

“I feel that I gave into the government’s blackmail,” he said. “I wanted to wait for a different vaccine, but the government had different plans for me.”

7:51 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Netherlands Prime Minister calls Covid-19 rioters "idiots"

From CNN's Mick Krever

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, Netherlands, on November 12.
Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague, Netherlands, on November 12. (Jeffrey Groeneweg/ANP/Sipa)

The Dutch prime minister on Monday denounced this weekend’s rioters as “idiots” who are using new Covid-19 restrictions as an excuse for violence.

“I realise that there are tensions in our society because we’ve been dealing with the misery of the coronavirus for so long,” Mark Rutte told reporters. “And I will as prime minister, as a liberal, always fight for the right to demonstrate in this country."
“But what I will never accept is that idiots use violence against the people who show up in the field for you and me every day to keep this country safe," Rutte added.

A weekend of violence in the Netherlands saw dozens arrested, a school set on fire, and both rioters and police injured.

“What we saw this past weekend, that is purely violence under the guise of ‘we are demonstrating,’” Rutte said.

“This has nothing to do with demonstrating. These are pure explosions of violence against our police, against our fire brigade, against people who drive ambulances. Nothing to do with demonstrating. Police [and the justice ministry] will do everything they can to hold those behind it accountable," he added.

The Dutch government reimposed some restrictions earlier this month among a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Restaurants and bars must close at 8 p.m for a three-week period that began on November 13, and face masks are now once again required in many public places like stores and secondary schools.

7:25 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Dire predictions of patients competing for beds in Germany's Covid-19 hotspot

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Two empty intensive care beds are located in an additional area of the intensive care unit at Leipzig University Hospital in Germany on November 15.
Two empty intensive care beds are located in an additional area of the intensive care unit at Leipzig University Hospital in Germany on November 15. (Jan Woitas/picture-alliance/dpa/AP)

Intensive care patients in Germany's Covid-19 hotspot could soon be forced to compete for beds as cases hit record levels, health officials warned Monday.

Hospitals in the eastern state of Saxony are in a "triage situation," Erik Bodendieck, President of the Saxonian State Medical Chamber, told public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk (DLF).

Bodendieck said a situation could arise in the coming days where two intensive care patients compete for one bed. The patient with the better survival chances would then get that bed, Bodendieck said. 

Saxony on Monday introduced tougher measures to combat surging coronavirus cases in the state. They include a curfew from 10 p.m until 6 a.m for districts with a seven-day incidence rate of more than 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants.  

Saxony’s seven-day incidence rate stands at just over 862 per 100,000 inhabitants, state authorities reported Sunday.

Within Saxony, the district of Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge has one of the highest seven-day incidence rates in the entire country, at just over 1,612 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the national agency for disease control and prevention.

Saxony also has the lowest vaccination rate of all states, at 59.9%, according to the German Ministry of Health. That's compared to a national vaccination rate of 68%.

9:33 a.m. ET, November 22, 2021

Germans will be "vaccinated, cured or dead" by winter end, says health minister

From CNN's Stephanie Halasz

Germany’s Health Minister, Jens Spahn, didn't mince his words on Monday as he urged people to get vaccinated amid a Covid-19 surge gripping the country.

Spahn said he was certain that by the end of this winter, everyone in Germany would be “vaccinated, recovered or dead," in relation to the Delta variant. 

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Spahn added that those who had the chance to protect themselves and others with the vaccine, should do so.

“It is important -- there is enough vaccine for all upcoming vaccinations, and both vaccines work,” Spahn said, speaking about BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna.