Three weeks ago, Austria lifted lockdown restrictions on vaccinations in most parts of Austria. This was three weeks after it reimposed strict regulations to counter a growing wave of coronavirus infection. 

These rules vary from one region to another within the country. However, they allowed theatres and museums to reopen on Sunday. 

However, Austrians who have not been vaccinated will be subject to these restrictions.  

The move comes as anger continues to mount in the country, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets in Vienna, Graz and Bregenz over the weekend to demonstrate against mandatory Covid vaccines and confinement orders as unvaccinated Austrians are set to be fined and restricted in the coming months.   

According to police, around 44,000 people demonstrated in Vienna Saturday to protest the ‘no vaccine fascism’ signs. This was the latest of a series of large weekend demonstrations after Austria became the first EU member to declare that it will make Covid vaccinations compulsory.

For those fully vaccinated on Sunday, a partial confinement was lifted. However, anyone who has not been vaccinated will need to stay at home. 

Under the new rules, shops will open on Monday and some regions were reopening restaurants and hotels on Sunday, while others were waiting until later in the month.   

Restaurants must close at 11 p.m. in all instances. Face masks are still required for public transport, inside shops, and other public places. 

On Sunday, protesters took part in an anti-Austrian government demonstration in Bregenz. 

Protesters carry a banner reading '2020: OMG, you are our heroes - 2021: take the vaccination or you are fired' as they take part in a demonstration against the Austrian government's Covid measures on Sunday in Bregenz, Austria

As they protest against Covid’s measures by the Austrian government, demonstrators carry banners that read: “2020: OMG! You are our heroes” during a Sunday demonstration in Bregenz.

Protesters carry posters reading "We are the game changers" (L) and "Fear was yesterday - Truth is today" as they take part in a demonstration against the Austrian government's Covid restrictions on Sunday in Graz, Austria

While protesters carried posters that said “We the game changers (L)” and “Fear wasn’t yesterday – Truth today”, they took part in an anti-Austrian government demonstration in Graz on Sunday. 

Tens of thousands took to the streets of Vienna on Saturday (pictured in front of the State Opera) to protest against mandatory Covid vaccines and home confinement orders, with unvaccinated Austrians set to be fined and restricted in the coming months

Tens of thousands protested in Vienna against the mandatory Covid vaccines, and were pictured at the State Opera. In the following months, unvaccinated Austrians are set to face fines and restrictions.

Since the start of the lockdown in November, new case numbers have plummeted in Austria

The number of new cases in Austria has plummeted since the November lockdown.

 

The number of new cases has dropped dramatically in this small Alpine nation since the lockdown was initiated. Austria had reported 367.7 new infections for every 100,000 residents on Friday. This is down from the 1,102.4 recorded in November’s first lockdown.

The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations has not fallen as much as the new cases. There are now 567 coronavirus cases in the intensive care units of this country. This is only slightly less than the 572 that were there on the initial lockdown. 

Last week, Chancellor Karl Nehammer called it an “opening with seatbelt”, which gives each region of Austria the power to adjust or loosen restrictions depending on their local circumstances.

However, unvaccinated individuals must be kept at home with lockdown restrictions except for specific reasons.    

Austrian officials stressed the importance of high vaccination rates to combat the disease.

Only 67% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated. This is a low figure for Western Europe and government officials have taken steps to increase pressure on those who aren’t vaccinated to do so. Since the announcement of these measures, the percentage of people who have gotten their vaccines has been on the rise.

On Sunday it led to thousands marching through Bregenz’s eastern city. Some were holding banners with pictures of nuse and saying: 2020: Omg! You are our heroes. 2021: Take the vaccine or you will be fired. 

A protest was also held in Vienna, where 44,000 people demonstrated against restrictions by the government. Some carried signs that read “I’m no neo-Nazi” or “I don’t want to be a hooligan.” “I’m fighting against vaccines and freedom. 

Except for dispensations for health reasons, all older residents must be vaccinated by February.

Nobody will be vaccinated by force, the government has said, but those who refuse the shot will have to pay a initial fine of 600 euros (£510), which can then increase to 3,600 euros (£3,070) every three months if not settled.  

Austrians have a lot of doubts about vaccinations. This is encouraged by Freedom Party, which is the third largest party in parliament. 

Demonstrators hold flags and placards as they march to protest against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions and the vaccine mandate in Vienna, Austria, December 11

Protestors hold placards and flags while marching to protest the restrictions on coronavirus disease (COVID-19), and the mandate for vaccines in Vienna, Austria. December 11.

Pictured: A man is tackled to the ground by police during anti-vaccine and Covid restrictions protests in Vienna on Saturday

Pictured: Police tackle a man to the ground during Saturday’s anti-vaccine protests in Vienna

People gather at Heldenpltaz to protest against Covid-19 measures and mandatory COVID-19 vaccine in Vienna, Austria on December 11, 2021

Heldenpltaz is a place where people gather to demonstrate against Covid-19 and the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in Vienna, Austria.

A partial confinement since last month ended on Sunday for the fully vaccinated, but those who have not received the required doses will have to remain at home. Pictured: Police officers stand in front of a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna on Saturday

Partially confinement for fully-vaccinated people ended Sunday. Those who did not receive the recommended doses of vaccine will be allowed to stay at home. Pictured: Police officers stand in front of a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna on Saturday

Manuela (47), said that she had traveled from outside of the city to protest in Vienna Saturday.

Is it fair to say that children should be excluded from the vaccinating process? The working mother said that she had been vaccinated but refused to reveal her surname.

“It is an incredible act of discrimination to not be able send a child to swimming, tennis, or dancing lessons. 

Analea (a 44-year old violin teacher) said that this wasn’t the right direction for democracy.

She stated, “We can share different values and opinions, yet still be able to live happily together.”

On Saturday, a flurry was of organizations called for demonstrations. This included the Freedom Party (FPOe) led by Herbert Kickl.

Vienna was not the only European city to witness protests over the weekend. Thousands of Spanish citizens marched in Barcelona and Madrid to oppose Covid restrictions. 

Spain’s conservative-led government on Thursday announced the details of its plan to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory. Protests were also held in Berlin.

Austrian authorities will remind unvaccinated citizens every three months to make sure they get their vaccines or to see a doctor who can certify that their exemption is valid before the next deadline. 

They can also be fined every three months if they fail to comply. All proceedings will be dropped when the person can produce evidence of their vaccination.

Karoline Edtstadler (the Cabinet minister responsible on constitutional questions) stated that “We still have an obligation to increase vaccine coverage so we don’t move from lockdown to lockdown next year.”

“There are well over one million Austrians still not vaccinated.” That is too many,’ she added, speaking during a new conference with Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.

“It is clear that we do not want to penalize those who haven’t been vaccinated. We would like to have them come with us, convince them about the vaccination, and ask them to stand by everyone else so we can regain freedom. 

Pictured: Protesters hold anti-vaccine placards during protests in Austria on Saturday. Police said an estimated 44,000 people attended the demonstration, the latest in a string of huge weekend protests since Austria last month became the first EU country to say it would make Covid vaccinations mandatory

Pictured during Saturday’s protests in Austria, anti-vaccine signs were held by demonstrators. The demonstration was attended by 44,000 persons, according to police. It is the latest of a series of large weekend protests that have erupted since Austria declared last month it will make Covid vaccines compulsory.

Vaccination is to be obligatory from February for all Austian residents older than 14, except in the case of a dispensation for health reasons. Pictured: People take part in a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, December 11, 2021

Except for the dispensation of health, all Austian residents over 14 must be immunized starting February. Pictured: People take part in a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, December 11, 2021

Pictured: A man in a hazmat suit and chains around his neck displays a sign reading: 'You won't break us'

Pictured is a man wearing a hazmat suit, chains around the neck, and holding a sign saying: ‘You won’t break us.

Protestors light flares during a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, December 11, 2021

Protestors light flares in protest against the measures taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic that struck Vienna (Austria) on Saturday, December 11, 2021

Austrian anti-Corona activist Martin Rutter speaks during a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, December 11, 2021

Martin Rutter is an Austrian anticorona activist who speaks out against coronavirus measures in Vienna (Austria), Saturday, December 11, 2021

Police walks during a demonstration against anti-Covid restrictions and compulsory vaccination in Vienna, on December 11

On December 11, police officers walked during the demonstration in Vienna against compulsory vaccination and restrictions on anti-Covid.

BARCELONA: Thousands of protestors light their mobile phones during a rally against restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and demand the return of freedom. Protest Over COVID Restrictions, Barcelona, Spain on Saturday

BARCELONA: Thousands of protestors light their mobile phones during a rally against restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and demand the return of freedom. Barcelona (Spain) – Saturday Protest against COVID Restrictions

MADRID: Demonstrators not wearing face masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19 gather before a protest march against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, December 11, 2021

MADRID: Demonstrators not wearing face masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19 gather before a protest march against COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, December 11, 2021

Demonstrators carry a banner reading "The Youth Stands Up" as they attend a protest against government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Berlin, Germany, December 11, 2021

As they protest government actions to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), demonstrators carry banners that read “The Youth Stands up” in Berlin, Germany on December 11, 2021

Parliament must approve the vaccine mandate. It is scheduled to take effect in February, then continue until January 2024. The mandate is supported by 2 opposition parties. This suggests that it can be easily passed.

Mueckstein stated that there will be quarterly deadlines for vaccinations. He also said that authorities would check the central vaccine register to verify that all members are on it.

“If this is not the situation, we will bring proceedings. Mueckstein explained that the average fine for regular proceedings amounts to 3,600 euros. However, he added that fines will be determined based on one’s ability to pay.

The authorities also have the right to issue a smaller fine immediately following the expiration of the vaccine deadline. 

“Here is the sum of the fine, it’s 600 euros,” he stated, noting that regular proceedings would be initiated if the fine was not paid. 

Austria announced on November 19 that it would implement a mandate for general vaccinations. At the same time, the government locked down the country in an effort to stop a rise of infections.  

During the lockdown, there has been a decrease in cases. The country’s number of cases fell to 4610 on Saturday, the date it was first announced.   

Austria’s government announced on Wednesday that it would let a wide range of businesses, from non-essential shops to theatres, restaurants and hairdressers reopen when its COVID-19 lockdown ends on Sunday, but many regions will open up more cautiously.

Seats and tables of a closed cafe are seen during the fourth national coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown in Salzburg, Austria, December 8, 2021. Austria's lockdown - announced last month - is set to end on Sunday after cases fell

At the fourth national coronavirus infection (COVID-19), lockdown, seats and tables are visible in a cafe. This was held in Salzburg, Austria. December 8, 2021. Austria will be ending its lockdown on Sunday, as a result of falling cases.

People wait in lines to register for COVID-19 vaccination on the second day of a national lockdown to combat soaring coronavirus infections, in Vienna, Austria, Nov. 23, 2021. Roughly 68 percent of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament

On the second day in a lockdown in Vienna to stop rising coronavirus infection, people wait in line to get COVID-19 vaccine. This was in Vienna, Austria on Nov. 23, 2021. Austria is home to 68 per cent of its population, which represents one of the lowest levels in Western Europe. Many Austrians have reservations about vaccines. The far-right Freedom Party is the third largest party in parliament.

The new Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer speaks at a news conference about his plans for the upcoming weeks in Vienna, Austria, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021

At a press conference, Karl Nehammer, the new Austrian Chancellor, discusses his plans for next weeks in Vienna (Austria), Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Vienna Opera Ball cancelled after second consecutive year

The government announced Wednesday that Austria had cancelled the Vienna Opera Ball’s famous Vienna Ball due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

According to Andrea Mayer, the state secretary for culture Andrea Mayer stated that keeping the date of February 24, 2022 would send a ‘false signal’ since the country will only be emerging from partial lockdown on Sunday.

According to the Austrian news agency APA, “The Opera Ball” is a type of event where social distancing would be impossible.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Austrian government cancelled the Ball, which is a key cultural event on Austria’s calendar.

It was stopped during the 1991 Gulf War.

The Vienna Opera says that the event draws thousands and costs 315 euro ($350) for ordinary tickets, while circles boxes are available at 23,600 Euro ($26.700). 

Reporting with AFP 

It means the change from one set of rules that covers all of country to a patchwork covering nine provinces. 

The confusion was further exacerbated by the fact that the west provinces of Vorarlberg (and Tyrol) have the fourth and highest infection rates respectively.

“Some (provinces), will gradually act over time and Burgenland, Vorarlberg, and Tyrol (immediately), adopt this federal arrangement,” Tyrol’s governor Guenther Plateter said at a joint press conference with Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein and Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Tyrol and Vorarlberg, both in the Alpine region of Austria, rely on snow tourism heavily. During lockdown in Austria, hotels were closed but ski lifts remain open.

Austria was placed in lockdown for two weeks to stop a record number of coronavirus infection daily. 

Although infections have declined, intensive-care beds are still being occupied. 

When the lockdown was first introduced, the government promised that it would not last more than twenty days. This promise has been kept until Sunday.

The following list includes businesses that are allowed to reopen starting Sunday, provided the provincial government does not impose tighter restrictions. Upper Austria was once the most infected province in Austria and bordered both Germany (and Czech Republic) for many years. The Upper Austria Province plans to be locked down through December 17.

Vienna won’t allow cafes or restaurants to fully reopen for a week following the lockdown lifts. However, non-essential shops will reopen on Monday. Austrian media stated that the three remaining provinces would follow suit, allowing restaurants and hotels to reopen only on Friday December 17.