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Austria entered its fourth Covid-19 lockdown after a weekend of protests against virus restrictions and vaccination mandates across Europe as the number of cases rose.

Containment began at midnight and is expected to last at least three weeks. The country reported more than 14,000 daily cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, up from less than 5,000 earlier this month.

Austria last week unveiled plans to make vaccination compulsory, which, if it goes into effect no earlier than February, could make it the first country in Europe to do so.

Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, said this month that the virus on its current path could kill 500,000 more in Europe and Central Asia by February. Speaking to the BBC over the weekend, he reiterated the warning and said it was time for a “legal and societal debate” on the introduction of vaccination mandates.

The reimposition of restrictions comes despite Austria’s vaccination rate of over 64%, making it one of the first countries in Europe to resume lockdown since vaccines became widely available.

Over the weekend, protests erupted in Austria, Italy and Croatia as governments stepped up efforts to curb the surge in infections that are straining health systems.

Tens of thousands of people marched through central Brussels on Sunday in a demonstration that turned violent. The protests followed a second night of riots in the Netherlands on Saturday over the introduction of stricter coronavirus restrictions.


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