Fourth corona wave
Full intensive care units: Austria pulls the emergency brake – and goes into lockdown

A corona patient is in the intensive care unit of the Tulln University Hospital in Vienna

© Helmut Fohringer / DPA

Austria is resorting to the last resort in the fight against the fourth corona wave and is consistently shutting down everything. The measures caused violent protests in advance – and confusion among many parents.

Public life is paralyzed, people should limit their social contacts: In view of the dramatic corona situation, Austria has been the first country in Western Europe to be locked down again since Monday. For everyone – including those who have been vaccinated – strict exit and contact restrictions are expected to apply for the next 20 days. People are only allowed to leave their homes for a few exceptions such as visiting the doctor, working, exercising and shopping for groceries.

Retail, gastronomy and cultural institutions have to close, only suppliers of goods for daily needs such as supermarkets or pharmacies are allowed to remain open. Christmas markets have also been canceled. An FFP2 mask is required indoors.

Schools and ski cable cars remain open

In the local transport of the capital Vienna, however, the exit restrictions on Monday morning were hardly noticeable. In contrast to the first lockdown, there was hardly any difference to the previous weeks, reported the APA news agency. Only at the transfer hubs and the connected shopping malls were there significantly fewer people in view of the closed shops.

Schools and kindergartens remain open even in the lockdown – however, the government appeals to all parents to keep their children at home if possible. Distance learning is not offered, however. “It’s a very confusing situation,” said mother Kathrin Pauser of the AFP news agency. She continues to bring her recently vaccinated nine- and eleven-year-old daughters to school. According to authorities, 70 percent of the children came to school on the first day of the lockdown.

The cable cars should also remain open for skiers. The head of the cable car association, Franz Hörl, therefore called for an exception to the closure for ski hut catering in the mountains.

Tens of thousands protest against lockdown

The hospitals reported more than 3000 corona patients for the first time on Monday, who have to be treated as inpatients. 562 people are in intensive care units with a virus infection. In addition, more than 13,000 new infections were registered in Austria within 24 hours. In the past few days, more than 15,000 new infections were counted in the country with its 8.9 million inhabitants, some daily. At 66 percent, the vaccination rate is below the European average.

Tens of thousands of people protested on Saturday against the new lockdown and the introduction of a compulsory corona vaccination planned for February. According to the police, around 40,000 people took to the streets in Vienna, and around 6,000 demonstrators gathered in Linz.

According to police, there have been at least six arrests. In addition to “concerned citizens”, right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis also took part in the protests, said Interior Minister Karl Nehammer. He was outraged by demonstrators wearing yellow stars that read “Unvaccinated”. In doing so, they played down the crimes of the National Socialists.

les / Denise Hruby / Anne Beade

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