In Austria, the Viennese show inevitability in the face of the return of confinement

By Jean-Baptiste Chastand

Posted today at 04:29

The huts of the Christmas market installed on Vienna's Rathausplatz have all lowered the curtain on the announcement of this new confinement.

On the Place de l’Hotel de Ville in Vienne, the traditional Christmas market, which usually attracts thousands of tourists in this season, is deserted. The little wooden huts have lowered the curtain, the pigeons are fighting over the last crumbs of the party. ” It’s hard “, does not hide Doris Tabor, busy repacking her heart-shaped gingerbread which she was still selling to the assembly line a few days earlier. “I sell perishable food and I had just refueled, now I have to take everything out, in case the mice come to eat them”, complains the 54-year-old shopkeeper.

All Christmas markets in the Austrian capital suddenly closed for three weeks, Monday, November 22, on the order of the eco-conservative government which has decided to impose new confinement in this country of 8.9 million inhabitants. Hard hit by the fourth wave of Covid-19 with an incidence rate exceeding 1,000 cases over 7 days, Austria was the first country in the European Union to take such a radical measure since the spring. It has just been followed on Wednesday November 24 by neighboring Slovakia. These two countries have in common a vaccination rate lower than the European average.

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Doris Tabor, a saleswoman of gingerbread in Vienna which she must get rid of, deplores the loss of these perishable goods.

Re-confined, the city of the Habsburgs suddenly returned to the lethargy of last winter: all non-essential businesses have lowered the curtain and tourists have left the city center. “The government did not have much choice, there are too many unvaccinated people”, deplores Mme Tabor, who herself received two doses and does not hide “To be pissed off” against the nearly two million Austrian adults who still refuse vaccination. “There are people who need urgent care and who will not get the care they deserve because the beds are occupied by unvaccinated people”, she recalls. “It would be up to me, I will shoot them with syringes”, launches, a little further, even more annoyed, Bernhard who has come to repackage goods from his stand of Christmas decorations.

The 2G rule well respected

Here, vaccination is unanimous, especially since the Christmas market has applied since its opening the so-called “2G” rule for “geimpft” (vaccinated) or “genesen” (cured). By virtue of the “confinement of the unvaccinated” which had been decreed on November 15, a simple test, always free in Austria, was no longer sufficient to come and drink mulled wine, the favorite pastime of the Austrians in this season. “It worked well, there were controls at the entrance”, assure Mme Tabor. But despite this, the meteoric rise in the number of intensive care patients – 578 as of November 24, to more than 80% unvaccinated – has prompted the government to extend containment without delay.

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In Austria, the Viennese show inevitability in the face of the return of confinement