Austrians protest lockdown, vaccine mandate

Associated Press / Florian Schroetter

Tens of thousands of people marched in Vienna on Saturday over Austria’s new COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates. 

Austrian police estimated that up to 40,000 people attended the march, which remained largely peaceful apart from some clashes between officers and demonstrators later in the day, according to The New York Times

The Times added that the size of the protest was unexpected and indicated people’s reluctance to resume lockdown measures almost two years into the pandemic. 

The march was organized in part by the country’s populist Freedom Party, which drew far-right groups and conspiracy theorists to the protest, as the party has long opposed the government’s COVID-19 restrictions, the Times reported. 

At least five people were arrested as people marched, accusing Austrian leaders of not doing enough to quash the virus before taking such extreme steps, the newspaper added.

The protest follows Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg’s announcement last week that Austria was set to become the first European country to return to a total COVID-19 lockdown. The lockdown is set to begin on Monday and remain in place for 10 days, though officials say it could last longer. 

Starting Feb. 1, Austria is also set to be the first country in the European Union to impose a nationwide vaccine mandate. 

About 65 percent of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated. Daily COVID-19 death figures have also recently spiked from their single-digit averages in September to a current average of more than 40, according to the Times.

Tags austria COVID-19 lockdown European Union

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