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25,000 protest Austria compulsory vaccination

One of the largest demonstrations was held in the southern city of Graz



Photo Courtesy : AFP

VIENNA, Austria (AFP) — Tens of thousands of Austrians rallied this weekend to protest against the government’s introduction of compulsory vaccination — the first European Union country to do so.

One of the largest demonstrations was held in the southern city of Graz, where police said late Saturday that around 25,000 people had gathered in a rally that remained mostly peaceful.

Other demonstrations on Saturday took place in the cities of Sankt Poelten and Klagenfurt, attracting around 3,500 and 5,000 people respectively.

Eleven arrests were made in Sankt Poelten, most of them for “aggressive behavior.” One police officer was injured.

The demonstration was organized by the far-right Freedom Party, whose leader Herbert Kickl has been vocal in opposing anti-virus measures and in pushing unproven treatments for the virus.

In an interview with the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Sunday, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said that the government had “sadly” been forced to turn to compulsory vaccination to bolster the current rate of full vaccination which currently stands at just under 67 percent and is one of the lowest in Western Europe.

With the current rate “we will never get out of the vicious circle of new waves and new debates on lockdowns,” he said.

“Every lockdown is a heavy interference in fundamental rights. Compared to that, compulsory vaccination is a minor interference,” he said.

Faced with rapidly rising case numbers, the government introduced a partial lockdown on Monday, although schools have remained open.