Thousands turned out Saturday for the latest protest in Vienna against coronavirus restrictions and several arrests were made for breaching public order laws and COVID-19 regulations, police said.
Many of the protestors did not wear masks or observe social distancing as they made their way through the center of the Austrian capital to a park where the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) had called a rally.
Austria eased its latest lockdown last month and reopened schools, shops and museums.
However protestors voiced opposition to the restrictions still in place, including the closure of restaurants and cafes as well as the tests school pupils must take to attend in-person lessons.
Former interior minister Herbert Kickl accused the government of “dancing on the edge of lunacy” in a speech to the crowd.
“It’s all so weird and mad, no Hollywood director could make it up,” Kickl said of the remaining restrictions.
Demonstrators chanted slogans and held placards seeking the resignation of center-right Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
Isolated scuffles were reported between protestors and left-wing counter-demonstrators.
Extreme-right elements, including neo-Nazis, have been present at previous anti-lockdown protests.
Such demonstrations have been increasingly common in recent months as citizens chafe against the continuing restrictions on normal life.
The government has said the restrictions could be further eased in the coming weeks if infections decline and hinted at the possible reopening of restaurants and cafe gardens at the end of March.
However, the number of new daily infections has been creeping upwards in recent weeks, with more than 2,500 new cases reported on Saturday.
Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said that the more infectious British variant of the virus was now the dominant variety in Austria and had achieved an “alarmingly” high reproduction factor of 1.23, higher than the original strain of the virus.
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