Austrians stage mass protest against Covid-19 measures

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Austrians stage mass protest against Covid-19 measures

Tens of thousands of people have staged a protest in Austria against measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, including mandatory vaccinations.

Police say about 44,000 people rallied in the capital, Vienna, the fourth straight weekend of demonstrations.

Last month Austria became the first western European country to reimpose a lockdown for those who are vaccinated, which ends on Sunday.

But restrictions will continue for unvaccinated people.

The protesters, backed by the far-right Freedom Party, are against the government’s decision to make Covid-19 jabs mandatory from February.

The country is the first in the EU to adopt such a measure, which applies to all residents older than 14, except in the case of a dispensation for health reasons.

Opponents say people should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether to be vaccinated. The government says nobody will be vaccinated by force but those who refuse the jab will receive fines of up to €3,600 (£3.070; $4,000).

Protesters carried banners saying “No to compulsory vaccination” and chanted “We are the people,” and “resistance”. Smaller demonstrations were held in the cities of Klagenfurt and Linz.

Austria, with a population of 8.9 million people, has confirmed 1.2 million infections and more than 13,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

About 68% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.