Austria locks in, Merkel says new measures needed as Europe faces COVID freeze

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Pedestrians walk through the city center during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as the Austrian government imposed a general lockdown from Monday, in Salzburg, Austria, November 22, 2021. REUTERS / Lukas Barth

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  • Austria to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory
  • Financial markets wary of new bottlenecks
  • Violent protests erupt in Guadeloupe

VIENNA / BERLIN, November 22 (Reuters) – Austria on Monday became the first Western European country to re-impose lockdown since the vaccine rollout, closing non-essential shops, bars and cafes as the The number of cases raised the specter of a second consecutive winter in deep freezing for the continent.

Germany will also need tighter restrictions to control a record wave of infections, said outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, comments that wiped out gains in European stock markets and lowered bond yields. Read more

With Europe once again the epicenter of the global pandemic that first caused lockdowns in March 2020, new vaccination restrictions and mandates are expected to extend almost two years after the first case of COVID was identified -19 in China.

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“We are in an extremely dramatic situation. What is in place now is not enough,” Merkel told leaders of her conservative CDU party at a meeting, according to two attendees, confirming the comments first reported. by Bloomberg.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, urging people to be vaccinated urgently, said he was certain that by the end of winter everyone in Germany would be “vaccinated, cured or dead”.

Austria has told people to work from home if they can and has closed cafes, restaurants, bars, theaters and non-essential stores for 10 days. People can leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, such as going to their place of work, shopping for basic necessities, or taking a walk.

The Austrian government has also announced that it will make vaccination compulsory from February 1. Many Austrians are skeptical of vaccinations, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third in parliament.

“It’s like a luxury prison. It’s definitely limited freedom and for me it’s not great psychologically,” said Sascha Iamkovyi, a 43-year-old food entrepreneur, describing his return to confinement by a cold, cloudy day in unusually quiet Vienna weather.

“People were promised that if they got vaccinated they could lead normal lives, but now that’s not true.”

The return of severe government restrictions in Austria had already brought around 40,000 protesters to the streets of Vienna on Saturday, and protests turned into violence in Brussels and the Netherlands over the weekend.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia have banned unvaccinated people from services, including pubs, from Monday. Read more

About a third of Austrians are unvaccinated, one of the highest rates in Western Europe, and authorities mostly blame the unvaccinated for the current wave of COVID, although protection from vaccines given at the start of this year also decreases. Inoculation greatly reduces the risk of serious illness or death, and reduces but does not prevent viral transmission or reinfection.

Austria’s conservative-led government imposed a lockdown on the unvaccinated last week, but daily infections continued to rise well above the previous peak, requiring this week’s full lockdown.

In many parts of Germany, including its capital Berlin, Christmas markets opened on Monday for the first time in two years. But the border states of Austria and the Czech Republic which have the highest number of cases in Germany have introduced stricter rules, canceling Christmas markets, banning unvaccinated people from restaurants and bars, and imposing curfews at night.

WATER AND LACROMETRIC GAS CANNON

Eastern European countries with even lower vaccination rates have seen some of the highest per capita death rates in the world, with hospitals being overrun in countries like Bulgaria and Romania.

Riots broke out in cities across the Netherlands as police clashed with crowds of angry young people who started fires and threw stones to protest COVID-19 restrictions. More than 100 people were arrested over three nights of violence, which saw police open fire on rioters in Rotterdam on Friday. Read more

Police and protesters clashed in the streets of Brussels on Sunday, with officers firing water cannons and tear gas at protesters throwing stones and smoke bombs. Read more

In France, proof of vaccination or a recent negative test is required to go to restaurants and to the cinema. President Emmanuel Macron said last week that more lockdowns were not needed.

But violence erupted last week on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe amid protests over COVID-19 restrictions such as mandatory vaccines for health workers.

Police arrested at least 38 people and dozens of shops were looted. Macron said on Monday that the protests had created a “very explosive” situation as a general strike entered a second week on Monday and many stores remained closed. Read more

Global Coronavirus Spread Interactive Chart: Open https://tmsnrt.rs/2FThSv7 in an external browser.

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Additional reporting by Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka; Writing by Nick Macfie Editing by Alison Williams, Mark Heinrich and Peter Graff

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