Austrians savored one final mulled wine in packed Christmas markets earlier than the curtain got here down on the holiday season that was simply getting underway, plunging the nation that gave the world “Silent Night” into its fourth lockdown of this pandemic on Monday. 

The capital, Vienna, awoke groggily to the new restrictions, with individuals heading to work, to convey kids to highschool or to train open air, roughly as ordinary. 

This was not the draconian lockdown of the pandemic’s daybreak in 2020, when actions had been strictly monitored and discouraged. Police vehicles circulated, in line with authorities guarantees to step up controls, however no spot checks had been being made. 


People crowd a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. 

People crowd a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

“I am particularly annoyed by the lockdown,’’ said Georg Huber, a lawyer on his way to the office. “One ought to have completed extra analysis in, I don’t know, summer time? One ought to have carried out a compulsory vaccination in the summer time, when it turned out it could not be sufficient to hope that individuals get there with none coercion. I feel the authorities simply overslept.” 

Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, coming in at around 66% of the population of 8.9 million people. There is a vocal minority who refuse to be inoculated. 

The government announced the nationwide lockdown on Friday, as the average daily deaths tripled in recent weeks and hospitals in hard-hit states warned that intensive care units were hitting capacity. 

The renewed restrictions will be in place for at least 10 days, but are likely to be extended for a further 10, after which the government has indicated plans to open up so Austrians can celebrate Christmas normally. Restrictions, however, will remain for the unvaccinated. 

A woman rides a bicycle along an empty street in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. 

A girl rides a bicycle alongside an empty road in Vienna, Austria, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

As of Monday, individuals can depart their properties just for particular causes, together with shopping for groceries, going to the physician or exercising. Kindergartens and colleges will stay open for many who want them, however all dad and mom had been requested to maintain their kids at dwelling if doable. 


Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein mentioned the lockdown was essential to convey down the variety of new day by day infections, which have spiked to as many as 15,000 a day, and to cut back the variety of virus sufferers in intensive care, at the moment at 531. But most of all, he mentioned, it was wanted to convey aid “to the people who work in this sector, the nurses and doctors who cannot take it anymore.” 

“It is a situation where we have to react now. The only way is with a lockdown, a relatively hard method, to lower the numbers with a wooden hammer,’’ Mueckstein told national broadcaster ORF on Sunday night. 

Political analysts say the government did not effectively communicate the necessity of the vaccinations early enough, and that many Austrians did not take the campaign seriously enough after former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz declared the pandemic “over” last summer. Kurz was forced out in a corruption scandal last month, replaced by his foreign minister, Alexander Schallenberg, who inside of a week expanded the controversial lockdown on the unvaccinated to a lockdown for everyone. 


A couple poses for a photograph backdropped by the building of the city hall at a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. 

A pair poses for {a photograph} backdropped by the constructing of the metropolis corridor at a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. 
(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Schallenberg additionally has pledged to make vaccinations necessary by Feb. 1, with particulars nonetheless to be hammered out. Experts have speculated that it might be restricted to sure age teams and even tied to employment, as Italy has completed. In Italy, well being passes are required to entry locations of employment, and will be obtained with a damaging check good for 48 hours along with the vaccination or proof of getting recovered from the virus. 

On the eve of Austria’s newest lockdown, individuals flocked to Christmas markets for one final night time of public socializing, and plenty of spent the weekend getting a leg up on holiday procuring earlier than shops closed. The Austrian Trade Association mentioned gross sales had been up 15% on Saturday, when strains shaped to benefit from “Black Friday” offers, in contrast with the similar day in 2019, earlier than the pandemic. 

But many feared the last-minute enhance wouldn’t be sufficient to salvage the season for companies that depend on the holiday season. 


Sophie Souffle, who sells upcycled jewellery at markets all 12 months spherical, mentioned she makes most of her cash over the six-week Christmas market interval. Any promised assist from the authorities shall be sufficient to get by, she mentioned, “but it won’t be enough to invest for future business.” 

She regarded round as individuals trawled stands, eyeing wares greater than shopping for them, and gathering in small teams to get pleasure from the firm of others earlier than gatherings had been restricted. She sensed extra desperation than holiday spirit. 

“The mood is pre-apocalyptic,’’ she mentioned.