Austria is in trouble when the FPÖ makes more sense about Covid lockdowns than the ruling government

One of the businesses that have closed in Vienna during one of the world’s longest lockdowns

OPINION

You know Austria is in trouble with its Covid-19 regulations when the people making the most sense about lockdowns, masks and their disastrous economic and psychological results is the FPÖ, a right-wing political party that has been slamming every regulation Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his ‘black-green coalition’ have been mandating for months.

Particularly when it comes to Austria’s now enormously damaged economy.

You know Sebastian Kurz’ and ‘The Greens’ coalition is in even bigger trouble when the number of subscribers to the FPÖ’s YouTube channel has skyrocketed over the last few months.

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Especially as, after basically flat new subscriber rates almost every month from the beginning of 2018 up until April, 2020, subscriptions began to consistently increase and, in December, 2020, the FPÖ TV channel added almost 14,000 new subscribers.

In January, 2021 it was almost 12,000. (Edit: As of January, 2022, the FPÖ’s YouTube channel now has more than 171,000 subscribers. An enormous increase in just one year for a political party still fighting for people’s freedom).

New subscribers fell in February but were still almost double what they had been in any spike between 2018 and mid-2020.

Views too on the channel have increased markedly, with almost 6 million video views in both December, 2020 and January, 2021.

A huge number for a political party in a tiny country, and particularly one that is not popular in Vienna its capital city —  and the city where most Austrians live.

Not surprising really, however, as Austria continues to be under ‘lockdown light’ several months after the last lockdown was announced, with Austrians now having had to experience longer government mandated lockdowns than almost any other country in the world.

Lockdowns that also continue when it comes to an enormous number of businesses that are still forced to stay closed, and have been closed for months.

An on-going situation that has devastated Austria’s tourism, gastronomy, music and cultural industries, put more than half a million people into unemployment, more than another half million into short time work (in a country with only 8.9 million people), and caused the country’s economy to contract more than after World War II.

An economy that has suffered, and continues to suffer, far more than every other EU country except one.

The FPÖ’s new found popularity is also not surprising when, yesterday, the Der Standard newspaper reported, as Kurz’s government stumbles along in its efforts to obtain and administer vaccines, and as Austria’s economy continues to self-destruct, the majority of Austrians now believe the ramifications of the never-ending lockdowns will be much worse than anything Covid-19 could ever have created.

As for me, someone who lives in Vienna, I am currently in the United States due to family issues.

A country that has never had a nationwide lockdown, where most businesses are open, where infection rates are continuing to fall and where, according to new president Joe Biden, any American adult that wants to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will have received that vaccine by the end of May.

Austria, however, remains under severe restrictions and with its borders closed to most over a year after Covid-19 first emerged, and with only promises of more possible ‘opening steps’ by Easter.

The availability of vaccines is also a continuing problem.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Anschober is now talking about a ‘third wave’ having started.

At this rate, the country could still be in lockdown this time next year.

I miss Austria, I love living there, and I will be happy to eventually get back  home, but I sure as hell don’t miss having ‘not much of a life’ due to lockdowns that never end.

And I certainly will not miss having to have a Covid-19 test to do nothing more than go out to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Nor do I miss a Chancellor who seems to be operating under nothing but flat-out panic about a virus approximately 99.5% of people that contract it will survive.

Special Note: And just in case you think otherwise, in general terms, I normally dislike the FPÖ and just about everything they stand for.

Michelle Topham