Thousands protested in Austrian capital Vienna on Saturday as the government prepares to vote on making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.
Austria’s parliament will vote on the issue this week after the government announced back in November that it would mandate vaccination for all residents, Reuters reported. Austria would be the first country in the European Union to impose such a mandate, if it passes.
“The government must go!” the protesters chanted in Vienna.
Saturday protests against COVID-19 restrictions have recently become common practice in Vienna.
The government is deliberating imposing the mandate as COVID-19 cases spike in the country, according to Reuters.
The increase in infections has been driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, and has spurred new COVID-19 restrictions around the world.
Austrian officials asked citizens to avoid big holiday parties last month to slow the spread of the virus.
“Omicron presents us with the next epidemiological challenge,” Katharina Reich, the co-leader of Austria’s COVID-19 crisis team, said at the time. “What we do know is that omicron is fast and we need to react quickly.”
“Celebrate New Year’s Eve in small groups,” Reich added.
Austria has imposed four national lockdowns since the start of the pandemic, per Reuters.
In total, the country has recorded more than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases and more than 14,000 deaths.