Monday, November 29

Thousands of people protest against the new COVID-19 blockade in Austria


Thousands of protesters gathered in Vienna on Saturday after the Austrian government announced a national lockdown to contain the rapid rise in coronavirus infections in the country.

The far-right opposition Freedom Party was one of those who called the protest and vowed to fight the new restrictions.

Demonstrations against anti-virus measures were also expected in other European countries, including Switzerland, Croatia and Italy.

On Friday night, Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in riots that broke out in central Rotterdam around a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions.

The Austrian lockdown will begin early Monday and initially run for 10 days, then will be reassessed. It will last a maximum of 20 days. Most stores will close and cultural events will be canceled. People will be able to leave their homes only for certain specific reasons, such as shopping for food, going to the doctor, or exercising.

The Austrian government also said that starting February 1, the country will make vaccinations mandatory.

When the march began on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, thousands of protesters gathered in the huge square. About 1,300 police officers were on duty. They used loudspeakers to tell protesters that masks were required, but most did not wear them.

Screaming “resistance!” and blowing whistles, the protesters began to move slowly along the inner ring road of the city. Many waved Austrian flags and carried posters mocking government leaders such as Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.

Some wore medical uniforms; others donned tinfoil hats. Most of the signs focused on the newly announced vaccine mandate: “My body, my choice,” read one. “We are defending our children!” said another.

Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl, who announced earlier this week that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to remain isolated at his home, made a video appearance. He denounced what he called “totalitarian” measures by a government “that believes that it should think and decide for us.”

Vaccines in Austria have stalled at one of the lowest rates in Western Europe and hospitals in the worst affected states have warned that their intensive care units are reaching full capacity. The average daily death has tripled in recent weeks.

Not exactly 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated, according to government figures.

Austrian Chancellor Schallenberg apologized to all vaccinated people on Friday night saying it was not fair that they had to suffer under renewed lockdown restrictions when they had done everything possible to help contain the virus.

“I am sorry to take this drastic step,” he said on public broadcaster ORF.

In France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday condemned the incidents on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, one of the French overseas territories, where violent demonstrations broke out this week over COVID-19 restrictions. Darmanin said 29 people were detained by police overnight. Authorities announced on Friday the decision to send 200 additional police officers to the island and a night curfew from 6 pm to 5 am that will be imposed until Tuesday.

Protesters have blocked roads and set street crews and cars on fire. They denounce the COVID-19 health pass that is required to access restaurants and cafes, cultural spaces, sports stadiums and long-distance trips. They also protest against mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers.

The pass shows that people are fully vaccinated, they have had a recent negative test as proof of a recent recovery from COVID-19.


www.euronews.com

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