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Tens of thousands in Austria protest COVID-19 restrictions

Tens of thousands in Austria protest COVID-19 restrictions
Protestors demonstrate in Vienna against government measures to slow down the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE

Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Tens of thousands of people in Austria marched through the capital Vienna Saturday to protest government restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 38,000 demonstrators participated in Saturday's protest, mostly without masks or social distancing, according to the Krone newspaper.

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Chants of "freedom" and "resistance" could be heard among the crowd that included families and far-right groups angered by the government's COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandate, The New York Times reported.

Among the crowd, was neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier Gottfried Kussel, the Krone reported.

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Austria will impose a new COVID-19 lockdown starting next week for at least 10 days to prevent another wave of infections, and in three months will begin requiring that all adults in the country are vaccinated, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced Friday.

Saturday's protests began quietly, according to Politico, but later aggressive demonstrators set of fireworks and threw beer cans and plastic bottles at officers, Austria Press Agency reported, leading to arrests.

At least five people were arrested, officials told the Times, and several others were written up for violations of COVID-19 regulations, such as failure to wear masks.

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Over a third of the Austrian population is unvaccinated, among the highest unvaccinated rate in Europe.

New infections have recently soared, with 14,333 cases logged Friday, according to a government COVID-19 dashboard. Daily deaths from COVID-19 have risen from largely single digits -- or none at all -- earlier in the year through September to 16 Friday.

Since the pandemic began, Austria has reported more than 1 million cases and 11,993 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University tracker of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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