The World Today for November 22, 2021


A Spoon Full of Salt


Austria recently instituted a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated, forbidding anyone without a shot over the age of 12 to leave their home unless they’re working, shopping, exercising or seeking a vaccination, the BBC reported. Violating the lockdown means a fine of almost $600.

Then it decided to shut down the country, reported CNN, who detailed how its famed ski resorts and Christmas markets will close for the second year in a row. “It’s beginning to look a lot like…lockdown,” its headline read, noting how Austrian measures are a first in Europe, even as other countries mull them.

Then came the protests.

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of people hit the streets of Vienna and elsewhere – the Netherlands and Belgium, for example – to protest, sometimes violently, against vaccine mandates and other anti-covid measures.

The country’s estimated two million unvaccinated people were already banned from restaurants, bars, hotels, other businesses as well as gatherings of more than 25 people, noted France 24. But Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg is worried about the Central European country’s embattled health system which is buckling under the strain of surging Covid-19 cases.

Sixty-four percent of Austria’s nine million people are vaccinated, three percentage points under the European Union average. Infections have been on the rise, increasing to more than 11,500 new cases in the second week of November compared to around 8,500 in the first week.

Paraphrasing another CNN headline, Austria’s moves were one example of Europeans “turning the screws” on their unvaccinated constituents. Germany, for example, was considering ordering proof of vaccination or a negative test to ride public transit. Berlin has already taken away eligibility for those with a negative test to enter restaurants – only those who can prove vaccination or covid recovery can enter. Around 50,000 new Covid-19 cases appear in Germany on daily a basis. That’s the most transmissions since the start of the pandemic and double the number compared to early November.

There’s little doubt a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic is upon Europe, the New York Times wrote. Warning that 500,000 people could die in the next few months, the World Health Organization called the continent the “epicenter of the pandemic.” Covid-related deaths in Europe, meanwhile, were up 10 percent while infections rose by seven percent throughout the region.

In Bulgaria, where the coronavirus is raging, hospitals have temporarily suspended non-emergency surgeries in order to allow doctors to treat Covid-19 patients. In Ireland, a midnight curfew on bars, restaurants and nightclubs took effect Thursday, just a few weeks after nightclubs reopened for the first time since March 2020. Italy has mandated booster shots for healthcare workers, the Local reported. Strictures on the unvaccinated riding public transport have also been put into place in the country. Meanwhile, Latvia, where resistance to vaccines is very high, already instituted a lockdown last month, the New York Times reported.

The cold weather is one reason why the virus is spreading. People go inside, where they are more likely to breathe in the virus, especially if people don’t wear masks. But, as Euronews noted, vaccination rates have also remained stagnant.

Meanwhile, anti-vaccine sentiments are prevalent in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, with its history of misinformation during communist times. At the same time, these sentiments have been given rise to a new militancy: the Associated Press wrote about how Italian police raided locations affiliated with activists who were part of the “Basta Dittatura” (Enough of the Dictatorship) chat room on Telegram for allegedly seeking to incite violence against the government.

Europe is on fire, an official recently noted. “We are back…where we were a year ago,” said a UN health official. He added that this time around, Europe has the tools to fight effectively against the pandemic. But it hasn’t found the right remedies to defeat the side effects of fear, fatigue or resentment.

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