The weather is turning colder here in Belgium. The wind is getting more sharp and the rain harder on everyone’s face. It’s a sign that Christmas is coming more and more close, and that also means time for the annual winter holidays. Time for going home and spending cosy days with your family. It’s the time for giving presents, eating too much food and… snow? For Sophie Dutzler (20) of Austria, the last thing will surely be the case. But when Austria turned in to a lockdown on November the 22th, things weren’t so sure anymore.
From the 14th of November, the lockdown started only for unvaccinated people, but after a week it extended to the whole of Austria. This meant that all the shops closed down, bars had to shut their doors and the people of Austria had to stay inside again. The only thing they were allowed to go out for were groceries, doctor appointments and sports.
Besides the prospect of another Christmas in lockdown, Sophie also worried about going home, being an exchange student in Belgium.
‘I was scared I couldn’t go home anymore for Christmas,’ Sophie tells. ‘Belgium was a high-risk country being the country with the first Omicron case in Europe. That was the only thing I cared for, but now I’m not scared anymore I won’t get in the country. Why would Austria not allow their own citizens to get in the country? Besides that, I didn’t really care. The lockdown did not affect me because I’m here in Belgium.’
Thinking about her family, she thinks it did affect their family in a certain way.
‘Well,’ Sophie starts with a small smile on her face. ‘My parents don’t like shopping online, they hate it actually. I don’t think they were able to do their preparations for the holidays yet, because all the shops are closed.’
Even though everything is harder in a lockdown, Sophie thinks it’s a good idea that the Austrian government took action. As Sophie states it, the numbers were getting way too high, just like they did last year.
Focus on unvaccinated people
Before the lockdown concluded the whole of Austria, it was only focused on its unvaccinated citizens. That’s not the only thing. Starting from February first next year, everyone is obliged to get vaccinated. Does this affect Sophie personally, or anyone around her?
‘Actually, everyone around me is vaccinated. My family, all my friends, me as well. It was our own choice, we weren’t pushed or anything. Of course, we weren’t too happy about it, but we all did it because we were sick of all the measurements. We did it so we would gain our freedom back.’
To speed up the vaccination process, it appears that Austria is doing everything they can.
‘There are opportunities to get vaccinated everywhere. If you go to a football game, you can get vaccinated before you enter the game. If you are travelling, you can get it on the airport and hop in your plane after that. So there’s literally no more excuse to not get vaccinated anymore.’
Even with all these options, there’s still people that don’t want to get the vaccine.
‘I know a girl that works as a kindergarten teacher. When it came out that getting vaccinated will be mandatory starting February the first, she quit her job. I think that’s so stupid.’
Ending of lockdown
At the beginning of the lockdown, it was stated that it would last for ten days, with an optional delay of another ten days. That didn’t go actually according to plan, as the lockdown ended the 13th of December for most of Austria. Only the upper part of Austria remains in a lockdown until the 17th, where Sophie lives. As the lockdown was meant to last for only twenty days but is still not over in Sophie’s town, it’s the question if it’s truly going to end on the 17th of December. According to Sophie, she has nothing to worry about.
‘If the government says it will end the 17th of December, it will end that day. There’s no reason why they would postpone it. I really think the lockdown will be gone by then.’
With the lockdown ending, it means there’s a prospect of an almost normal Christmas. That’s also what Sophie thinks, hoping that everything will feel normal again.
‘I hope that all the shops and restaurants will open again. It would also be nice if the clubs would open again, but I think that’s too soon yet. It will be a nice Christmas, spending it with family and friends after not seeing them for a few months.’
Last November, demonstrations struck all over Europe. You can think of Brussels, Rotterdam and of course Vienna. In Vienna, the demonstrators were angry about the new measurements, including the vaccinating getting mandatory. One day before the lockdown ended, another demonstration struck in Austria. What does Sophie think of the many demonstrations going on in Austria?
‘I think it’s useless to go demonstrating one day before the lockdown ends. What do you want to achieve with it? There’s no need to do it. If you’re unable to get the vaccine due to health reasons, then it’s a different story. But I do think that’s not the case for the most demonstrators.’
Luckily, Sophie will be able to travel to Austria to celebrate another Christmas with her family and friends. Let’s hope the situation evolving COVID won’t backlash again, so this will be an unforgettable holiday season.
Text: Manon Botterblom
Photo: Glen Carrie