Thousands expected to protest upcoming lockdown in Vienna

The Austrian lockdown will begin early Monday and will initially last for 10 days, and then will be reevaluated

Thousands of demonstrators were expected to gather in Vienna on Saturday after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown to curb the rapidly growing coronavirus infection in the country.

The far-right opposition Freedom Party is among those who have called for protests and vowed to counter the new sanctions.

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

On Friday night, Dutch police opened fire on demonstrators and injured seven people in riots that broke out in the city of Rotterdam during a demonstration against the COVID-19 restrictions.

The Austrian lockdown will begin early Monday and will initially last for 10 days, and then will be reevaluated. At most it will last for 20 days. Most stores will remain closed, and cultural events will be cancelled. People will only be able to leave the house for certain reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.

The Austrian government also said that from 1 February the country would make vaccination mandatory.

Vaccination rates in Austria are one of the lowest in Western Europe and hospitals in highly affected states have warned that their intensive care units are reaching capacity. Average daily deaths have tripled in recent weeks.

According to government figures, 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people have not been fully vaccinated.

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

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

Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl, who announced earlier this week that he had tested positive for COVID-19, called the measures “dictatorial”. Kikl must self-isolate for 14 days, so he will not be able to join the Vienna protest.

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