Austria officially entered confinement at zero on Monday, a harsh measure that sparked protests in the country over the weekend, as well as in Belgium and the Netherlands, where there were demonstrations against anti-covid restrictions.
Vienna felt like a ghost town, where shops, restaurants, Christmas markets, concert halls and beauty salons dropped their doors. With the exception of schools, the capital and the rest of the country woke up in silence on Monday.
As in previous confinements, the 8.9 million Austrians are theoretically banned from leaving their homes, except for shopping, playing sports or receiving medical care.
They can also go to the office and take the children to school, but authorities have asked the population to stay at home.
The announcement of the measures, made on Friday, due to a spike in covid-19 cases, reverberated in other parts of Europe, with large protests in the Netherlands, and Belgium, among other countries.
This Sunday, the Netherlands experienced its third night of protests, with fireworks and vandalism in the cities of Groningen and Leeuwarden, in the north, as well as in Enschede, in the east, and in Tilburg, in the south.
However, the protests were less intense and violent than those that shook Rotterdam on Friday and The Hague on Saturday.
Dutch police said 145 people were detained after three days of protests.
The nuisance in the Netherlands came from restrictions that affect especially the restaurants, which must close at 8 pm.
– Chaos –
The Dutch government planned to prohibit the access of the unvaccinated to certain places to contain the wave of contagions.
“People want to live (…) That’s why we’re here,” Joost Eras, one of the organizers of the demonstrations, who distanced himself from the violence, told AFP.
In Austria, the scenario seemed unthinkable weeks ago, when former conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz declared an end to the pandemic in the face of the proliferation of vaccines.
His successor, Alexander Shallenberg, who took office in October, “did not want to contradict this message and for a long time maintained the fiction” that all was well, political scientist Thomas Hofer told AFP.
With the increase in infections, which reached unprecedented levels since the beginning of the pandemic, the Austrian government began to take measures aimed at the unvaccinated, preventing their access to public places.
The vaccination rate is “too low”, with 66% of the population against 75% in France, for example, highlighted the political scientist.
In addition to the confinement, scheduled to extend until December 13, vaccination of the adult population will be mandatory on February 1, 2022, a measure that few countries in the world have adopted.
“It’s real chaos,” said Hofer, highlighting “the absence of a clear government strategy.”
“I was hoping we didn’t get to that, especially now that we have the vaccine. It’s dramatic,” said Andreas Schneider, a 31-year-old Belgian economist who works in Vienna.
– Mobilization and disturbances –
The reaction did not take long: on Saturday afternoon, around 40,000 people took to the streets of Vienna to the cries of “dictatorship”, summoned by the far-right FPO party.
In the northern city of Linz, a rally also brought together thousands of protesters.
In other parts of Europe, besides Holland, where the number of contagions is also increasing, restrictions return and frustration grow.
In Brussels clashes were reported on Sunday, when tens of thousands of people gathered to protest against measures aimed at the unvaccinated.
There were also demonstrations against vaccination in Australia, while in the French Antilles there were violent protests against the demand for the health pass and the mandatory vaccination of medical personnel.
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