Thousands protest in Vienna against confinement and mandatory vaccination

Thousands of protesters gathered this Saturday in Vienna to protest against the confinement and mandatory vaccination announced the day before by the Austrian government to try to contain the worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

The demonstration, which took place under strong police surveillance, was organized by the far-right party FPÖ, although its leader, Herbert Kickl, was not present at the initiative, as he tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus .

Among the protesters, there were those who had taken a six-hour trip to contest the latest measures by the executive, such as Katarina Gierscher, who, in statements to AFP, revealed that she had come from the province of Tyrol to appeal to citizens’ resistance and protest against measures that divide society.

“It is not right for us to be deprived of our rights,” said the 42-year-old teacher, adding: “The government wants to divide us, we have to stick together.”

After imposing on Monday a national confinement only for the unvaccinated (about two million people), Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced on Friday that the confinement would extend to the entire population (about 8, 9 million people) by December 13th.

From Monday, they will not be allowed to leave the house, except for shopping, sports or medical assistance. Only schools will remain open, but parents are encouraged not to take them to classes, which will essentially take place ‘online’.

The confinement may still be renewed for a maximum of 20 days, if the first period is not enough to reduce new cases of infections, said the chancellor, who also admitted that this step after nearly two years of the pandemic “is very painful” and criticized the “political forces in this country that are vehemently opposed” to vaccination.

Despite its initial reluctance, the government will also prepare a law to impose vaccination on the adult population from February 1, 2022. Those who do not comply will face sanctions.

In a televised speech, Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen warned that society was in danger of becoming “even more divided” in the future. “The coming weeks will require a great effort on our part. We must do everything in our power to break the fourth wave and stop the next one,” he declared.

In a Europe that has once again become the epicenter of the epidemic, cases in Austria have reached levels not seen since the spring of 2020: the country registered more than 10,000 new cases of infection per day, while the vaccination rate is around 66% , ie below the European average.

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