Thousands rally against Covid curbs in Austria and Australia

AFP , Saturday 20 Nov 2021

Thousands took to the streets in Austria and Australia Saturday as anger mounted over new Covid restrictions imposed to tackle a resurgent pandemic, sparking overnight riots in a Dutch city and a French island.

Virus Outbreak Austria
Demonstrators shout slogans and light flares during a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (AP Photo)

Europe is battling a fresh wave of infections and several countries have tightened curbs, with Austria on Friday announcing a national partial lockdown -- the most dramatic restrictions in Western Europe for months.

Other nations on the continent have resorted to less severe restrictions, often choosing to ban unvaccinated people from venues like restaurants and bars.

Some 10,000 people marched in Sydney and there were protests in other major Australian cities against vaccine mandates, which are not universal and have only been applied to certain occupations by state authorities.

"In Australia where a fanatical cult runs our health bureaucracies, they say it's ok (to vaccinate children)," right-wing politician Craig Kelly told the Sydney crowd to large cheers.

Violence marred protests on Friday in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam where police fired warning shots as protesters set fires. Two people were hospitalised with bullet wounds.

There was also arson and looting overnight in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe where a night curfew has been imposed.

Thousands gathered Saturday in central Vienna near the Chancellery, responding to a call by the far right FPO party, to denounce the new measures.

They held up banners decrying "Corona dictatorship" and slamming the "division of society".

"It's not normal that the government deprives us of our rights," said 42-year-old Katarina Gierscher, who travelled for six hours to get to the rally.

"The government wants to divide us. We must remain united."

From Monday, 8.9 million Austrians will not be allowed to leave home except to go to work, shop for essentials and exercise. The restrictions will initially last 20 days with an evaluation after 10 days.

Vaccination against Covid-19 in the Alpine nation will be mandatory from February 1 next year.

- 'All hell broke loose' -

Organisers cancelled a Dutch protest on Saturday but a few hundred people still gathered in Amsterdam and a similar number marched through the southern city of Breda.

The group that cancelled the Amsterdam rally said on Facebook it acted because "last night, all hell broke loose in Rotterdam".

"The riots and extreme violence against police, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are horrifying," said dutch security minister Ferd Grapperhaus.

The French overseas territory of Guadeloupe was also volatile overnight.

"The night was very turbulent," a police source told AFP, adding that live bullets had been fired at a police car.

Sport continues to face a turbulent time thanks to the pandemic, with Germany ordering next month's Ski Jumping World Cup in Klingenthal to be held behind closed doors.

However, in France jubilant skiers hit the slopes as resorts fully opened their doors for the first time in almost two years.

"We're delighted to be able to get the lifts up and running again and to be able to do our job 100 percent," rescue worker Emmanuel Laissus told AFP in the Val Thorens resort in the southeast.

Short link: