Austria: Thousands take part in coronavirus sceptic protests

More than 4,000 people turned out for the latest demonstrations against coronavirus measures in several Austrian towns and cities on Wednesday, as the government considered measures to counter them.

Austria: Thousands take part in coronavirus sceptic protests
A file photo of a coronavirus protest in Vienna from October 2020. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP

Police reported the presence of “extremists and radicals” elements at one such gathering, a feature of previous demonstrations that is increasingly worrying the authorities.

Austria is currently in its third coronavirus lockdown, which is scheduled to end on January 24.

The biggest demonstration on Wednesday saw 2,500 people gather in the town of Wiener Neustadt, according to police, who arrested several people for breaches of anti-coronavirus measures.

Police also said they had to intervene because “a group of extremists and radicals were causing a disturbance”. The group in question was of an “anti-democratic” tendency, they added.

READ MORE: Austria to extend coronavirus lockdown

About a thousand protesters gathered in the town of Amstetten and 500 in the southern town of Judenburg.

Smaller protests — some billed as “walks” in order to evade virus-related curbs on gatherings — were reported in several other cities and towns in different parts of the country.

The presence of extremist elements in some of the protests has caused alarm and pushed authorities to announce tighter surveillance of such events.

In the town of Braunau am Inn on Saturday, about 50 protesters stopped to pose for a photo in front of the house where Adolf Hitler was born.

Local police say several of them are now being investigated for having allegedly raised their arms in Nazi salutes.

The interior ministry said Tuesday it was preparing guidelines for tougher action against such events where necessary.

“The far-right calls for the demonstrations, they push them and use the corona cloak to spread their ideologies,” interior ministry spokesman Harald Soeroes told AFP on Tuesday.

“That's no longer about freedom of expression, that's re-engagement” in National Socialist activities, a crime under Austrian law, Soeroes said.

Local authorities would be advised to prohibit demonstrations “when there is evidence that radical elements known to authorities will participate, that banners with right-wing extremist messages will be shown,” he added.

The exact motivations and demands of the protestors are often difficult to pin down, but frustration at the repeated lockdowns as well as opposition to mask-wearing and vaccinations are common themes.

On Sunday in the capital Vienna, about 2,000 protesters gathered for one protest rally.

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Austria makes quarantine announcement for monkeypox

The Ministry of Health has announced new quarantine guidelines for dealing with monkeypox in Austria.

Austria makes quarantine announcement for monkeypox

The Ministry of Health has published a set of guidelines for authorities after Austria reported its first case of the disease on Monday.

A three week quarantine now applies to contacts of confirmed cases, but only if they are showing symptoms of monkeypox, reports Der Standard.

The isolation period can be completed at home or at hospital, depending on the state of health of the patient.

Furthermore, contacts of a positive case will be treated as either Type I or Type II in a move similar to the management of Covid-19 contacts.

READ MORE: Monkeypox in Austria: What causes it and is it serious?

Type I contacts are considered as high-risk and include those who have had direct contact with skin lesions of an infected person, such as sexual partners, but also close passengers on planes, buses or trains for a period of at least eight hours. 

High-risk contacts do not have to isolate straight away but must monitor their condition for 21 days through a daily phone call with the health authorities. If symptoms occur, then the person has to quarantine for three weeks and a PCR test has to be carried out.

Type II contacts are short social contacts, such as work colleagues (not in the same office), or fleeting contacts in gyms, saunas or bathrooms. These contacts must monitor their health for 21 days.

READ ALSO: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

A case of monkeypox is confirmed after a positive result from a PCR test and Austria currently only has one confirmed case of monkeypox in Vienna.

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that positive cases of monkeypox are contagious for the entire duration of an infection, which can last from two to four weeks.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The disease displays symptoms in two phases.

The first stage involves a high temperature, muscles aches, back ache, chills, headache, swollen glands and exhaustion.

This is typically followed a few days later by a rash on the mouth, throat, face, hands and forearms before spreading to other parts of the body. The genital area can also be affected.

READ MORE: Austria to ‘pause’ Covid mask mandate from June 1st

A patient is no longer contagious when the rash has disappeared.

To be considered a suspected case, a person must have been in contact with a probable or confirmed case of monkeypox, recently returned from West or Central Africa or been in contact with a potentially infected animal.

Additionally, a person must have developed a rash of unknown cause and at least two other symptoms (e.g. fever, chills) within 21 days after contact.