Thousands are expected to protest the upcoming closure in Vienna
Vienna Thousands of protesters are expected to gather in Vienna on Saturday after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown to contain the rapidly increasing infections in the country.
The far-right opposition Freedom Party was among those calling for protests and vowing to fight the new restrictions.
Other European countries, including Switzerland, Croatia and Italy, are also expected to see demonstrations against the virus measures.
On Friday night, Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in a riot that broke out in downtown Rotterdam over a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions.
The Austrian lockdown will start as early as Monday and will initially last for 10 days, then will be reassessed. At most it will last 20 days. Most stores will be closed and cultural events cancelled. People will only be able to leave their homes for certain specific reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.
The Austrian government also said that from February 1, the country will make vaccinations mandatory.
Austria’s vaccination rates have stabilized at one of the lowest in Western Europe, and hospitals in hard-hit 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 population are not fully vaccinated.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg apologized to all those vaccinated on Friday night, saying it was unfair to suffer under renewed lockdown restrictions when they did everything to help contain the virus.
“I am sorry for taking such a drastic step,” he said on public radio ORF.
Freedom Party leader Herbert Kekel, who earlier this week announced he had tested positive for COVID-19, referred to the measures as a “dictatorship”. Kickl must self-isolate for 14 days, so that he cannot attend the Vienna protest.
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