November 15, 2021 - 12:28pm


UPDATE: Don’t miss the full story and video report, now live HERE

I’m in Vienna on day one of the world’s first lockdown for only the unvaccinated.

At first glance it seems like an ordinary, if rather grey, November day — perhaps with slightly fewer people out and about than you might expect. Medical-grade masks are much in evidence, and there are queues outside all the testing centres (a negative test is an accepted alternative to vaccination).

But this is no ordinary day. As of midnight last night, around 30% of the adult population have been legally mandated to stay inside their homes. They are allowed to leave only to buy essential food, to travel to and from essential work and for physical exercise. Leisure of any kind is forbidden. In effect, this means that two million Austrians are currently under partial house arrest.

We’ve been speaking to people on the street to find out what they think, as part of a forthcoming special report for UnHerdTV.

What strikes me most is the class inflection to the whole thing. We started this morning on one of the fancier shopping streets in the old town, full of Rolex and Karl Lagerfeld stores in which well-heeled locals lined up to express their support for the lockdown. There is very little sympathy for a truculent minority that is seen as “stupid” and “having brought it on themselves”.

On the same street, however, if you approach the people wearing fluorescent vests, guarding the stores and making deliveries, you tend to get a different response. They are more reluctant to speak to us, but decidedly less supportive. “It is bullshit,” was one man’s pithy response.

Questions about the practical efficacy of such a measure don’t seem to be of much interest. When I ask people if they know that vaccinated people can also contract and transmit Covid, they tend to brush it aside as a minor detail. Not a single person we have spoken of so far referred to the likely practical outcome of this new policy — it is simply a hardening of the vaccine passport policy that so far has evidently failed to contain the latest wave of infections.

For the Government, the motivation, as always, is mainly to be seen to be doing something; the numerous anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown political parties that have grown up during Covid have made it even more of a political battle.

But for the majority of voters that support it I can’t escape the sense that the motivation is at least partly punitive. They don’t understand people who are not taking the vaccine, they don’t like them, and they are slightly afraid of them — so the simplest thing is to remove them from society altogether.

UnHerdTV’s special report from inside Austria’s lockdown for the unvaccinated will be out later this week.

is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.