The photo shows people attending a demonstration in Vienna, Austria, to protest against mandatory COVID vaccines. (Photo by Reuters)
Around 10,000 people have taken to the streets of the Austrian capital Vienna to protest against the governmentís mandatory vaccination plan.
The protesters waved Austrian flags and chanted slogans against the governmentís COVID-19 vaccination strategy as they gathered at Heldenplatz Square on Saturday.
A protester described the mandatory vaccination as "poison for all of mankind," while another said, "Our bodies belong to us and it will stay that way!"
Austria imposed a national lockdown in November and made vaccinations mandatory from February 2022, following a surge in the coronavirus cases, becoming the first EU country to take such stringent measures.
Vaccination is to be obligatory for all those older than 14, except in the case of a dispensation for health reasons.
Nobody will be vaccinated by force, the government has said, but those who refuse the shot will have to pay an initial fine of 600 euros, which can then increase to 3,600 euros if not settled.
Austriaís Health Ministry has said people who have not been vaccinated by March 15 will be committing an administrative offence. From March 15, police will carry out random checks including at road blocks and offenders will face legal proceedings, it said, adding that people aged 18 and over with an address in Austria are affected by the new regulation.
Saturdayís rally coincided with Chancellor Karl Nehammerís announcement that COVID-19 related restrictions would be eased next week, allowing shops and restaurants to remain open longer.
Protests against mandatory vaccination campaigns are being held in Europe as virus infections have surged across the continent. Faced with outright refusal, many nations in the Europe are imposing ever stricter rules and restrictions on unvaccinated people, effectively making their lives more difficult in an effort to convince them to get their shots.
First discovered in South Africa in November, the fast-spreading Omicron variant is emerging in almost every corner of the world. Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, but experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains.
Thousands protest ‘totalitarianí vaccine pass in Paris
Some 2,000 protesters poured onto the streets of the French capital Paris to show their opposition to the countryís vaccine pass, which they deemed to be discriminatory and excessive.
Protesters rallied behind far-right figure Florian Philippot, who called for the demonstration and has been a vocal opponent to health restrictions in France. They held up placards reading, "Freedom," and waved flags of various countries, notable Canada, where a movement of truck drivers opposing health measures is under way.
Other smaller protests took place simultaneously in the French capital.
"The vaccine pass is segregation in plain sight and the worst part is that a lot of people support this segregation," a protester told Reuters.
The French vaccine pass took effect on January 24, replacing a health pass that showed proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or past infection.
The vaccine pass briefly brought new momentum to weekly street protests against COVID-related restrictions on public life, but the turnout consistently decreased in recent weeks.