Thousands protest in Vienna as Austria’s ‘dictatorship’ lockdown looms

, lasting for at least ten days but with the possibility of extending until December 12. In addition, vaccines are expected to be made mandatory for all Austrian citizens from February next year.

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The decision to make vaccination mandatory from February 1 will be a first for a western democracy.

One of the largest protests, held in front of the Hofburg Palace, saw an estimated 15,000 demonstrators denounce the Austrian government for trying to take control of their bodies.

Herbert Kickl, leader of the far-right Freedom Party has been largely credited with organising the protests, calling for people to support “freedom and human dignity”.

He said: “From today Austria is a dictatorship.

“Our freedom is close to our hearts.”

However, Mr Kickl was not able to join the protests as he recently tested positive for Covid and has been forced to quarantine.

Around 13,000 police officers were deployed in Vienna on Saturday, as protesters threw cans, smoke bombs and other projectiles.

Austria’s latest restrictions come amid surging Covid rates across central Europe.

The latest official data from the country suggests there are as many as 15,000 new daily cases.

Cases in Germany and the Netherlands are also on the rise.

However, Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told Sky News it was unlikely that the UK would need to follow Austria into a lockdown this winter.

He said: “Here in the UK, we’ve had high rates of infection for many months now and we’re in a slightly different position to Austria and Germany.

“We’ve had high rates but fairly stable.

“I don’t think things will happen quite in the same way as they have done there.”

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