Vienna (AFP) – Austria officially went into lockdown on Monday, November 22, after midnight, a severe measure that sparked protests over the weekend, as did countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, where there were demonstrations against the Covid-19 restrictions.
Vienna seemed like a dead city, where shops, restaurants, Christmas markets, concert halls and hairdressers lowered the curtain. Except for the schools, the capital and the rest of the country woke up on Monday, November 22 in silence.
As in previous confinements, the 8.9 million Austrians, in theory, are prohibited from leaving their home except to shop, practice sports or receive medical attention.
It is also allowed to go to the office and take children to school, but the authorities called on the population to stay at home.
The announcement of the measures last Friday in the face of a rebound in coronavirus infections, found an echo in other parts of Europe, with large protests in the Netherlands and Belgium, among other countries.
The Netherlands saw its third night followed by protests on Sunday, with fireworks and vandalism in the northern cities of Groningen and Leeuwarden, as well as Enschede in the east and Tilburg in the south.
However, the protests were less intense and violent than those that rocked Rotterdam on Friday and The Hague on Saturday.
Police said 145 people were detained after the three days of protests.
The annoyance in the Netherlands arose from the restrictions that especially affect restaurants, which must close at 8:00 p.m.
Chaos and low vaccination
The Dutch government has proposed to prohibit the access of the unvaccinated to certain places to contain the wave of infections.
“People want to live … that is why we are here,” Joost Eras, one of the organizers of the demonstrations, told AFP, who nevertheless distanced himself from the violence.
In Austria, the scenario seemed unthinkable just weeks ago, when former Conservative Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz declared the end of the pandemic due to the proliferation of vaccines.
His successor Alexander Shallenberg, who took office in October, “did not want to contradict that message and for a long time maintained the fiction” that everything was fine, 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 “blatantly low”, with 66% of the population compared to 75% in France, for example, the political scientist noted.
In addition to the confinement, scheduled until December 13, vaccination of the adult population will be mandatory by February 1, 2022, a measure that few countries in the world have adopted.
“It is a real chaos,” said Hofer, noting “the absence of a clear government strategy.”
“I was hoping we wouldn’t get there, 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 riots
The reaction was immediate: on Saturday afternoon, some 40,000 people marched through the streets of Vienna shouting “dictatorship”, summoned by the far-right party FPO.
Also in the northern city of Linz there was a mobilization of thousands of protesters.
In other parts of Europe, in addition to the Netherlands, the number of infections is also increasing, restrictions return and frustrations grow.
Clashes broke out in Brussels on Sunday as tens of thousands of people rallied in opposition to measures targeting the unvaccinated.
There were also mobilizations in Australia against vaccination, while in the French Antilles there were violent protests against the requirement of the health pass and the mandatory vaccination of medical personnel.
The French department of Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean, received police reinforcements from France on Sunday after violent demonstrations against the requirement for mandatory vaccination.