By Askin Kiyagan
VIENNA (AA) – More than 40,000 people in the Austrian capital took to the streets to protest against the ongoing lockdown and plans to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory from next year.
The demonstrators gathered in Heldenplatz, one of the historical squares of Vienna, shouted slogans and clashed with the police.
Vienna police said they deployed 1,200 personnel to control the protesters and ensure COVID-19 regulations such as mask-wearing are complied. Some of the protesters who resisted were arrested.
On Nov. 22, despite protests, Austria implemented a 20-day national lockdown to stem a surge in coronavirus cases.
The new restrictions require everyone to stay at home except for essential services such as going to markets, pharmacies or visiting a doctor.
All hospitality venues – pubs, restaurants, cafes and hotels – and close contact services, e.g. hairdressers and beauty salons are also closed.
Earlier, a curfew was imposed for the unvaccinated only, with fines to those caught breaking the rules. But cases continued to rise.
The overall caseload in the European country has reached 1.19 million including 12,753 related deaths.
Nearly 67% of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Interior Minister Karl Nehammer is set to become the next chancellor as the ruling conservative People's Party has chosen him as party leader.
Earlier this week, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said he will step down, less than two months after taking office from Sebastian Kurz.