44,000 people protest Covid-19 restrictions in Austrian capital 1 day before lockdown ends

They are not happy.

Jean Chien Tay | December 13, 2021, 05:06 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/mothershipsg

A day before the end of a nationwide lockdown, 44,000 people took to the streets of Vienna, Austria, on Dec. 11 to protest against Covid-19 restrictions that apply to the unvaccinated.

Such restrictions include mandatory vaccinations and home confinement orders for the unvaccinated.

About 1,400 police officers were deployed to oversee the protest, and three people were reportedly arrested for using fireworks and not wearing their masks, Reuters reported.

The police said that there was an attempted assault of a reporter, and journalists who were covering the event were also attacked with snowballs and ice.

Protestors reportedly carried banners that wrote "no to compulsory vaccination" and "hands off our children", and chanted "we are the people," and "resistance".

According to the BBC, this is the fourth consecutive weekend of demonstrations in Vienna.

Opposition party leader: "Kicked in the a***" by the government

The protest is reportedly backed by the far-right Austrian Freedom Party, whose leader Herbert Hickl addressed the crowd and bashed the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hickl said the protests will continue, adding that the public had not realised that they were being "kicked in the a***" by the government, according to Reuters.

Protestors were also against the vaccine mandate, which was previously announced by the Austrian government and is expected to take effect from Feb. 1, 2022, onwards, the BBC reported.

Austria is reportedly the first country in the European Union (EU) to announce a vaccine mandate, which covers all residents over the age of 14, with exceptions given to those who are unable to be vaccinated due to medical reasons.

Fine for the unvaccinated

Meanwhile, people who are opposing the government's decision argue that individuals should be given the freedom to decide whether to be vaccinated, according to the BBC.

The government had said that they will not vaccinate people by force, but those who refuse to be vaccinated will face an initial fine of €600 (S$927), which could increase to €3,600 (S$5,563) if left unsettled, The Guardian reported.

Lockdown restrictions to continue for the unvaccinated

Austria's lockdown began on Nov. 22 and ended on Dec. 12.

However, people who are unvaccinated will continue to be restricted under the measures, according to the BBC.

Under the lockdown, people in Austria were not allowed to leave their houses except for work, exercise, and essential purchases like food and medicine, DW reported.

Parents were also encouraged to keep their children at home, though schools remained open during the period.

Over 1.2 million cases

According to data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Austria has recorded over 1.2 million cases of Covid-19 infections and 12,629 deaths as of Dec. 10.

After new Covid-19 infections reached the peak of 14,139 cases on Nov. 24, the numbers have reduced greatly throughout the country's period of lockdown.

On Dec. 10, Austria recorded 5,016 new cases of Covid-19 infections.

However, hospitalisation rates remain near levels that could compromise the healthcare system's capacity, Bloomberg reported.

With a vaccination rate of 68 per cent, the country ranks among the lowest in Western Europe in terms of vaccination rates, the BBC reported.

Follow and listen to our podcast here

Top image via BBC/Getty Images