Austria has resorted to a renewed national lockdown following a surge in COVID-19 infection. Meanwhile, protests over new restrictions aimed at reducing infections have expanded all across Europe.
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Austrian authorities have urged citizens to work from home starting at midnight. In addition, non-essential shops have been closed in the country. Protests have erupted across Europe as a result of these new limitations. In the Netherlands and Belgium, citizens battled with police.
COVID-19 Infections Rise Across Europe
Infection rates have grown dramatically in the region, prompting World Health Organization concerns. Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, spoke to the BBC on Saturday bout the severity of the situation. He noted that unless COVID-19 safety precautions were tightened across Europe, half a million more deaths might be recorded by next spring. Precautions such as immunizations, masks, and COVID-19 permits for venues thus need to be more stringent.
Austria became the first country in Europe to make COVID-19 vaccination a legal necessity last week, with the rule set to take effect in February. In Germany, hospital intensive care units have been filling up, with heightened infection rates. Following this, politicians in the country have been discussing similar measures as Austria.
New Restrictions across Austria
Austria has been in a countrywide lockdown four times since the pandemic began. Authorities have advised residents to stay at home for everything. They have further been suggested only to leave home for vital reasons, such as employment, exercise, and food shopping. Restaurants, bars, hair salons, theatres, and non-essential stores must all close. These restrictions will be in place till December 12th, though officials have stated that they will be reviewed after 10 days.
On Sunday night, health minister Wolfgang Mueckstein told ORF TV that the government needed to “respond now”.
Protests erupt over fresh COVID-19 Restrictions
Prior to the shutdown, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Vienna’s capital. Protesters waved national flags and waved “Freedom” banners as they chanted “Resistance!” and booed the cops.
Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with only about 65% of the population fully immunized. Although the country’s daily immunization rate increased dramatically in November, some people remain sceptical. Vaccine hesitancy has been a major source of concern for many governments around the world. One unvaccinated woman in Vienna told the BBC that Austria’s intention to make vaccinations mandatory was an “infringement of human rights”. She also stated, “It’s always a person’s choice.”
Angry rallies opposing harsher restrictions turned violent in several European countries over the weekend. Demonstrators battled with police in Brussels, Belgium’s capital, after tens of thousands marched through the City Centre.
COVID-19 passes, which prevent the unvaccinated from visiting cafés, restaurants, and entertainment places, are the major target of protesters. The march began peacefully, but some participants threw rocks and pyrotechnics at officers. The police also retaliated with tear gas and water cannons. For the third night in a row, riots broke out across the border in the Netherlands.