COVID: Hundreds gather in Paris to protest over new Austria restrictions


Paris (Reuters) – Several hundred protesters gathered outside the Austrian Embassy in Paris on Thursday to demonstrate against Austria’s new COVID-19 restrictions, fearing France might be next to re-impose curbs aimed at reducing the circulation of the virus.

The event, which passed off peacefully, was organised by far-right politician Florian Philippot, who has been at the forefront of protests in France against the COVID-19 health pass and vaccination certificate required for many daily activities.

Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, prompting some countries to reimpose restrictions in the run-up to Christmas, and stirring debate over whether vaccines alone are enough to tame COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Austria imposed a lockdown on people unvaccinated against COVID-19.

However, pressure on Austria’s government to impose a full COVID-19 lockdown grew on Thursday as its worst-hit provinces said they would adopt the measure for themselves since infections are still rising despite the current lockdown for the unvaccinated.

An Elabe opinion poll published in French media on Thursday said around 60 percent of those surveyed backed a new COVID lockdown in France for those not fully vaccinated against the virus.

Yet those protesting outside the Austrian Embassy in Paris said such measures would be discriminatory, and they feared President Emmanuel Macron’s government could take similar steps.

“What is happening in Austria is very, very concerning,” said Martine Cirasa, a 43-year old languages teacher.

“First up, we need to support the Austrian people. I think, we are plumbing the very depths of horror, in terms of what is being proposed, plumbing the very depths of discrimination, and obviously we are afraid that this will happen in France,” she added.

Her views were echoed by 64-year old former soldier Pierre-Louis, who was also at the demonstration.

Earlier this week, Belgium tightened its coronavirus restrictions, mandating wider use of masks and enforcing working from home.

Germany’s chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz on Thursday also warned the country must prepare for tough measures in coming months to tackle a new wave of COVID infections.

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