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Unrest and protests spread over Europe as new Covid-19 restrictions come in

Austria reported over 15,000 new Covd-19 cases on Saturday.

Image: Shutterstock/sunfe

Updated Nov 22nd 2021, 4:15 PM

DEMONSTRATIONS ARE BREAKING out across Europe in response to renewed measures implemented by governments to help stop the spread of Covid-19. 

In Austria, has entered a nationwide lockdown to try to combat soaring coronavirus cases.

It’s one of the most dramatic restrictions seen in Western Europe for months, with non-essential shops, restaurants and Christmas markets closed.

The measures require people to stay home aside from basic reasons like getting groceries, going to the doctor and exercising.

Restaurants and most shops must close and larger events are cancelled.

Schools and day care centres can remain open, but parents are encouraged to keep their children home.

It is expected that the rules will last for a maximum of 20 days until December 13, but will be re-evaluated after 10.

On Saturday, the nation reported 15,297 new infections, a week after the number of daily cases topped 10,000.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced on Friday that Austria will introduce a vaccine mandate as of 1 February. The details of how the mandate will work are not yet clear.

In an interview yesterday in the Kurier newspaper, Schallenberg said it was “sad” the Austrian government had to resort to a mandate to ensure enough people get vaccinated.

Just under 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

Hospitals, especially those in the hardest hit regions of Salzburg and upper Austria, are overwhelmed as the number of coronavirus patients rises in intensive care units.

Schallenberg said he and other officials had hoped this summer that a new lockdown would not be necessary and it was a tough decision to impose one that affected vaccinated people.

“That people’s freedoms need to be restricted again is, believe me, also difficult for me to bear,” he said.

The new measures, especially the vaccine mandate, have been met with fierce opposition among some Austrians and vaccine sceptics.

A protest on Saturday in the capital of Vienna drew 40,000 people, according to police, including members of far-right parties and groups.

Unrest in Europe

Meanwhile, days of rioting against measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 have brought normal routines on France’s Caribbean island of Guadeloupe to a standstill.

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Paris authorities sent elite police and counter-terrorism officers to Guadeloupe over the weekend in a bid to quell the violence, the latest Covid-related headache in France’s overseas territories for the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

The Dutch Premier Mark Rutte has slammed three nights of violent unrest over anti-virus measures as “pure violence … by idiots” and vows to prosecute those responsible.

At least 130 people have been arrested, four people wounded and several police officers injured since the violence first erupted on Friday, when a protest in the port city of Rotterdam turned into running battles between police and rioters.

In Brussels, Belgium, violence broke out at a protest yesterday that police said was attended by 35,000 people.

The march, in the city’s European Union and government district, largely focused on a ban on the unvaccinated from venues such as restaurants and bars.

It began peacefully but police later fired water cannon and tear gas in response to protesters throwing projectiles, an AFP photographer witnessed.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has gotten a third dose of the country’s Sputnik vaccine with more than 1,200 dying every day there from the virus.

With just over a third of the population fully vaccinated, Russia is the worst-hit country in Europe.

With reporting by AFP and PA

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