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Friday, Dec 09, 2022

Austria brings back COVID lockdown amid angry protests across Europe

Restrictions re-imposed on Europeans to stem a rising wave of new COVID-19 infections sparked angry protests in a handful of countries over the weekend, with the angst descending into violent clashes with police in a handful of nations.
Austria was back under a full nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Monday — the first EU country to reinstitute the drastic measure amid fears of a deadly fourth wave.

About 50,000 people came out to protest over the weekend against the country's 4th coronavirus lockdown and an accompanying national vaccine mandate that will kick in from February. Some 40,000 demonstrators gathered for a rally, organized by the far-right Freedom Party, in the capital city of Vienna alone.

The lockdown was imposed as Austria's seven-day incidence rate of COVID-19 infections climbed to 1,085 per 100,000 inhabitants per week, according to authorities. About two thirds of eligible Austrians are fully vaccinated, a significantly lower proportion than in most Western European nations.

The party that currently governs Austria had long rejected another lockdown. For weeks it argued that such restrictions were unreasonable for those who had been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. But the steadily rising number of patients in intensive care units finally changed the calculus.

Under the new lockdown, only stores selling essential items are allowed to open. Cultural activities have been cancelled and museums and movie theaters ordered to closed. People are only allowed to leave their homes with a valid reason, such as to purchase necessities or get some exercise. Schools are open, but the government has urged parents to keep their kids home if possible.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has stressed that the lockdown will end no later than December 13. But it remained unclear how anyone still unvaccinated after that date would be treated, especially given the looming vaccination mandate.

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