Austria sees third weekend of coronavirus protests
Tens of thousands of Austrians turned out Saturday for the third straight weekend of protests against the government’s coronavirus measures, police said.
After several different demonstrations took place in the capital Vienna, police said their estimate of overall turnout was “over 40,000”.
Police said that some demonstrators had thrown “pyrotechnic objects” at officers, who used pepper spray in response.
Several arrests were made for civil disorder offences.
Police added that around 1,500 people had taken part in a counter-demonstration.
Austria is in a partial lockdown which started on November 22 and is scheduled to end on December 11.
It was the first country in the EU to say it would make vaccination against the coronavirus mandatory, a measure expected to come into effect from February.
The government has justified the measures by pointing to a fourth wave of the virus and the country’s vaccination rate — at 67 percent one of the lowest in Western Europe. The country’s intensive care units are coming under increasing pressure.
Since the lockdown came into effect, infection numbers in the country of 8.9 million have fallen from highs of 13,000 a day to under 10,000.
However, the restrictions have prompted a backlash from many Austrians.
Local media reported protestors had travelled to the Vienna protests from across the country Saturday, and families with children were among those taking part.
The opposition to lockdowns and compulsory vaccination has been encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), whose leader Herbert Kickl has promoted unproven treatments against the virus and accused the conservative-green coalition government of acting like a “dictatorship”.