Thousands of Liberal Party supporters protested the COVID lockdown and mandatory vaccination in Vienna.
Thousands of protesters gathered in the Austrian capital of Vienna after the Austrian government announced a nationwide blockade to contain the country’s rapidly rising coronavirus infection.
The far-right opposition Liberal Party is among those who called for a protest on Saturday and pledged to oppose the new restrictions.
It is expected that other European countries, including Switzerland, Croatia and Italy, will also hold demonstrations against the virus measures.
On Friday night, the Dutch police Fire A demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions broke out in the center of Rotterdam. Seven people were injured in the riot.
The Austrian blockade will begin early on Monday and will initially last for 10 days before being reassessed. Lasts up to 20 days. Most shops will be closed and cultural events will be cancelled. People can only leave home for certain reasons, including shopping for groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.
The government also stated that from February 1st, the country will Mandatory vaccination.
Austria’s vaccination rate is one of the lowest in Western Europe, and hospitals in the hardest-hit areas warn that their intensive care units have reached saturation. In recent weeks, the average daily death toll has tripled.
According to government data, less than 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people have been vaccinated.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg apologized to all vaccinated people on Friday night, saying that when they did everything to control the virus, they had to suffer under the new lockdown restrictions, which was unfair.
“I’m sorry to take such drastic steps,” he said on the public broadcaster ORF.
Earlier this week, the leader of the Liberal Party, Herbert Kickl, announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19, and he called these measures “dictatorship.”
Kickl must self-quarantine for 14 days, so he will not be able to participate in the Vienna protests.
Austrian journalist and author Michael Bonvalot told Al Jazeera that the far-right movement, mainly from the Liberal Party, took advantage of some people’s dissatisfaction with the government’s COVID regulations.
He said in Vienna: “What the extreme right has done is they see that some people are not completely satisfied with the necessary measures to respond to the pandemic.”
Bonvalo said that the far right is organizing around anti-COVID rules and adding anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to their agenda.
“If we look at the current figures, I think that 20% to 25% of the population is not completely satisfied and close to some kind of conspiracy theory. This is the right-wing extremist who is trying to recruit,” he said.
In areas where the right-wing movement is strong, “[fewer] People get vaccinated and more people get sick,” he added.