Austria: Thousands protest against Chancellor’s “apology” to vaccinated

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More than 38,000 people protested in central Vienna today against a general lockdown coming back from Monday and the impending general vaccination obligation, as the country set a new record with more than 15,000 cases and 31 deaths from coronavirus complications. Chancellor Alexander Salenberg apologized yesterday to 65% of the citizens who have been vaccinated, while the Federal President defended the decision for compulsory vaccination, talking about the essence “obligation of humanity”.

The demonstrations that took place today in the Austrian capital made ten arrests, while at least as many other lawsuits were filed, based on the law on the prohibition (of the use of Nazi symbols). Many protesters wore a yellow star with the words “unvaccinated” and some held placards reading “This is how 1938 began” and “Salenberg = Mengele”. Lists of “unwanted” journalists were also shared during the demonstration.

“When during a demonstration – which is co-organized by a party represented in Parliament (ie the far right FPÖ) – police officers are attacked while committing criminal acts under the Prohibition Act, this is unacceptable. “The attempt to identify the protesters with the victims of the Nazi regime is not only distasteful, but it underestimates the crimes of the Nazis and offends the millions of victims of the Nazi dictatorship and their relatives,” Interior Minister Carl Nehammer told Der Standard.

“We will paralyze the city” on Saturday was the slogan – an invitation to coronavirus and Covid-19 vaccine denial organizations, including the far-right FPÖ. “In collaboration with various movements for freedom,” the FPÖ’s call said. The quarantine campaign involved party leader Herbert Kikl himself, who is in quarantine after contracting a coronavirus: “The government is leading the country coldly into dictatorship,” he said, calling the vaccination requirement unconstitutional. He had previously announced that former FPÖ leader and former Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache would take part in the protests as a “worried citizen”.

Yesterday, the offices of many Austrian media received emails calling for “armed resistance against the coronavirus madness”. The sender spoke of “freedom or death” and demanded that there be no lockdown and no mandatory vaccination. “Free people will put an end to the coronavirus dictatorship,” said the author of the letter, which also included threats against the lives of Alexander Salenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mukstein and weapons photos. Search for the sender is ongoing. The demonstrations were attended by, among others, the newly formed MFG party, which is skeptical of vaccines, but also by far-right and neo-Nazi organizations. Among the messages spread on social media in the last 24 hours were the “serious” warnings about the danger of inadvertently “vaccinating” the protesters by police helicopters, and even for violent vaccination of the feet, by government officials who are hiding under the manhole covers on the road.

Yesterday, Mr. Salenberg, in an interview with the Austrian public television ORF, apologized for the impending lockdown to those who, as he said, “did everything right”. For his part, Federal President Alexander van der Belen defended the federation and state decision with a view to the situation prevailing in hospitals across the country. He even spoke of a “correct, albeit belated” choice and advocated general compulsory vaccination, vaccination, speaking of an “obligation of humanity”.

In the country’s hospitals, the situation is constantly deteriorating and it is characteristic that one third of non-emergency surgeries have already been canceled. The Ministry of Health yesterday warned clinics in Upper Austria and Salzburg, the two most burdened states, about the possibility of protests. For this reason, the police presence in these hospitals has increased.

Meanwhile, the Austrian government is preparing for the implementation of compulsory vaccination for all, no later than next February. According to what has become known so far, exemptions from the obligation will be provided for people who for medical reasons can not be vaccinated and for pregnant women. Especially for those who have recovered, it is expected that the exact period of their exemption from the obligation to be vaccinated will be determined. However, according to the draft Law, which is invoked by Standard, compulsory vaccination is excluded. It remains unclear at what age the new provision will apply, as children are already being vaccinated in Austria under the “off label” procedure, as well as whether the new legislation will apply only to people with Austrian citizenship or to anyone in the country. something that would also have an impact on tourism.

Mr. Salenberg clarified that possible violations would constitute an administrative offense. The health professions are discussing a fine of 3600 euros or penalties of deprivation of liberty for four weeks. Similarly, those who do not get booster vaccination will have to pay a fine of up to 1450 euros.

The project, however, is characterized as “titanium” by analysts and the media, as in order for the state to know who is violating the law, it must first know who has not yet been vaccinated. One of the solutions discussed is to inform all those who have not been vaccinated by letter, in which a deadline will be set for them to be vaccinated, otherwise they will suffer the consequences. Alternatively, employers could be barred from employing unvaccinated people.

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