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Austrians Circulate Ahead of Lockdown

As of Monday, there'll be no sipping mulled wine under holiday lights for a while
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 21, 2021 12:40 PM CST
Austrians Circulate Ahead of Lockdown
A woman covers her mouth and nose with a napkin Sunday as she walks by a small camp set up by opponents of COVID-19 restrictions in Vienna.   (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

(Newser) – Under a clear blue sky, Austrians enjoyed a last day out in coffeehouses and at Christmas markets Sunday before the government imposes a nationwide lockdown to combat a surge of coronavirus infections. The measures, which take effect early Monday, are expected to last at least 20 days but will be reevaluated after 10, the AP reports. They require people to stay home apart from basic reasons like buying groceries, going to the doctor, and exercising. Restaurants and most shops will close, and larger events will be canceled. Schools and day care centers will remain open, but parents are encouraged to keep their children at home.

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The government hopes to lift the measures on Dec. 13 but may keep a further lockdown on the unvaccinated. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg also announced Friday that Austria will introduce a vaccine mandate as of Feb. 1. The details of how the mandate will work aren't yet clear. With the lockdown hours away, Christmas markets across central Vienna were packed with people shopping for gifts and enjoying one last round of warm drinks and food. At the Freyung Christmas market in Vienna, Alexandra Ljesevic and her sister Anna sipped mulled wine and punch amid wooden stands and under sparkling holiday lights. "It's the last chance to feel the Christmas time and vibes," Alexandra Ljesevic said.

Across the market, Maria Fernanda Monasterio enjoyed a hot chocolate and lamented that the market was shutting down. She has come nearly daily to enjoy the atmosphere before the stalls closed. "This is for me the most beautiful time of the year here in Vienna," she said. "I was really looking forward to it." In an interview Sunday, Schallenberg said it's sad that the government had to resort to a mandate to ensure that enough people get vaccinated. Just under two-thirds of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Austria reported 15,297 new infections on Saturday. Hospitals are overwhelmed as the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units rises.

(Read more Austria stories.)

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