Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said Sunday that a nationwide lockdown would begin Monday for those not vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently recovered, as the EU member fights a record surge in cases.

Around 65% of Austria's almost nine million people are vaccinated, below the EU average of 67%, while daily increases in infections have hit records this week.

"The situation is serious... We don't take this step with a light heart but unfortunately it is necessary," Schallenberg told reporters.

The lockdown means people over 12 who are neither vaccinated nor recently recovered will not be allowed to leave the house except for reasons such as buying essential supplies, exercise or seeking medical care.

The lockdowns across the Alpine country are to be enforced with random spot checks for the next 10 days. After that it will be reviewed, Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein said.

Parliament - controlled by Schallenberg's conservative-Green coalition - is expected to approve the measure later Sunday.

Schallenberg and Mueckstein called again on those who have not yet been vaccinated to get jabbed.

Also from Monday, Vienna is becoming the first region in the EU to offer jabs to children from the age of five to 11 at a vaccination centre in the capital.

Appointments were booked for more than 5,000 children when registration opened on Saturday, the city said.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet issued an authorisation for any of the vaccines to be used for this age group ,though member states have the right to do so in a public health emergency. 

Last week, the government had already said that only those vaccinated against or recovered from the virus would be allowed into restaurants, hotels and cultural venues.

So far, some 11,700 people infected with the coronavirus have died in Austria. Daily case increases hit an all-time high of more than 13,000 new infections on Saturday.

Work from home

Meanwhile, nearby Germany is preparing a return to working from home under draft legislation seen by AFP on Sunday, as the country tries to tackle an unprecedented wave of coronavirus cases.

The reintroduction of the rule, which was lifted at the beginning of July, comes as Germany faces a growing fourth wave of the virus.

Infections and deaths have been climbing steeply since mid-October, in an outbreak blamed on Germany's vaccination rate of just over 67% - still leaving a large share of people more vulnerable to infection and severe disease.

At 289 cases per 100,000 people, the recorded incidence of the coronavirus reached a new high in Europe's most populous country on Sunday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency.

"The coming wave will overshadow all the previous waves," Saxony state premier Michael Kretschmer, whose region is currently amongst the worst hit, told German weekly Bild am Sonntag.

Under the draft plan, employers in Germany would be forced to offer the option to work from home in the absence of a "compelling business reason" to come to the office.

Anyone going into work would also be asked to show they were protected against the virus or had tested negative.

The German government is also working up plans to limit access to certain events to those who have both been vaccinated or recovered from a coronavirus infection, and can present a negative test, according to reports in the German media.

The new package of measures is being drafted in close consultation with the parties seeking to form the next German government, the Social Democrats, the Greens and the liberal FDP.

Their joint legislation will be presented to the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, for approval on Thursday, before being signed off by the upper house on Friday.

The German government and regional leaders also come together virtually on Thursday to coordinate their response.

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