Europe sees protests against Covid curbs

Updated on Nov 23, 2021 06:14 AM IST

Anger surges against governments as they impose lockdowns, vaccine mandates and fines to control rising infections.

Demonstrators march in the center of Zagreb, Croatia, to protest against Covid-19 measures such as obligatory certificates for public sector.(AFP)
Demonstrators march in the center of Zagreb, Croatia, to protest against Covid-19 measures such as obligatory certificates for public sector.(AFP)
Agencies | By, The Hague

In the face of demonstrations across much of Europe protesting tough Covid-19 measures over the past days, authorities on Monday pleaded for patience, calm and a willingness to get vaccinations as infections spike upward again. Protest marches from Zagreb to Rome and from Vienna to Brussels and Rotterdam, bringing tens of thousands out, all had one message from a coronavirus-weary crowd - we’ve had enough!

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday lashed out at “idiot” rioters who rampaged through cities across the Netherlands this weekend when protests against coronavirus policies turned violent. More than 100 people were arrested during three nights of violence, which saw police open fire at rioters in Rotterdam on Friday.

“This was pure violence disguised as protest,” Rutte said.

Scenes were ugly too at the end of the Brussels protest march, with rioters pelting police, who then used tear gas and water cannons to break up the crowds. “Our goal today is to fight against the virus. Please, let us not get incited by a small group which would turn it into a fight against one another,” said Belgian PM Alexander De Croo.

The EU pointed out that scientific evidence shows that increased vaccinations would contain the crisis and avoid more deaths. “You know the three words very well — vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate,” said spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker

The protests come as a fourth wave of infections is locking down Austrians and forcing renewed restraints in many European nations.

Austria, which woke up on Monday to its fourth national lockdown since the start of the pandemic, is threatening fines of up to 3,600 ($4,000) for people who refuse shots once mandatory inoculations kick in 2022.

Slovakia is mulling the possibility of declaring a three-week full lockdown. Premier Eduard Heger is “intensively” considering this option for the country, which is currently among the most hit in new cases in the world on per capita basis.

Germany’s latest surge in Covid-19 infections is worse than anything the country has experienced so far, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, calling for tighter restrictions. Austria, which went into its fourth national lockdown on Monday, is threatening fines of up to $4,000 for people who refuse a shot once mandatory inoculations kick in next year.

Denmark’s consumers turned pessimistic for the first time in seven months in November after the Nordic country reintroduced some restrictions to fight a rising infections. Daily infections are up by a factor of about 10 since the country ended restrictions in September.

Meanwhile, two bodies set up to advise the French government on its handling of the Covid-19 crisis have recommended making booster shots, currently only offering boosters to people over 65, available to all adults.

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