Restrictions reintroduced on Europeans to stem a rising wave of new onesinfections sparked angry protests in a handful of countries over the weekend, with fears falling to violent clashes with police in a handful of nations. Austria was back during a full nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Monday – the first EU country to reintroduce the drastic measure amid fears of a deadly fourth wave.
Around 50,000 people came out to protest over the weekend against the country’s 4th coronavirus lockdown and an accompanyingfrom February. Around 40,000 protesters gathered for a demonstration, organized by the far-right Freedom Party, in the capital Vienna alone.
The shutdown was imposed as Austria’s seven-day incidence of COVID-19 infections rose to 1,085 per cent. 100,000 inhabitants per week, according to authorities. About two-thirds of eligible Austrians are fully vaccinated, a significantly lower proportion than in most Western European nations.
The party currently ruling Austria had long rejected yet another lockdown. For weeks, it argued that such restrictions were unreasonable for those who had been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. But the steadily increasing number of patients in intensive care units finally changed the calculation.
During the new lockdown, only stores that sell important goods may open. Cultural activities have been canceled and museums and cinemas have been ordered to close. People are only allowed to leave their homes for a valid reason, such as buying necessities or getting some exercise. Schools are open, but the government has urged parents to keep their children at home if possible.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg has stressed that the closure will end by 13 December. But it remained unclear how anyone still unvaccinated after that date would be treated, especially given the looming vaccination mandate.
There was also significant unrest over the weekend in the Netherlands and Belgium, where hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters took to the streets. The anger boiled over into violent riots in a number of Dutch cities for the third day in a row on Sunday.
An emergency decree was issued in a city where videos posted online showed police trying to disperse a crowd of relays. Elsewhere, police cars were damaged by stone-throwing rioters and the street was set on fire. In The Hague, police used water cannons against rioters who on Saturday had attacked officers with fireworks and damaged traffic lights and road signs. Five police officers were injured, one of them seriously.
In Belgium, around 35,000 people took to the streets of Brussels on Sunday against the government’s anti-COVID measures, with the so-called “Corona Pass” digital app to prove vaccination or recovery status that aroused particular anger. Pictures from the Belga news agency showed police cars with broken windows, burning barricades and pyrotechnics flying through the air.
Politiet brugte vandkanoner og tåregas mod demonstranterne. There were at least 44 arrests and three police officers were injured.
The number of daily COVID infections has risen sharply in Belgium in recent weeks. More than 12,000 new infections a day have recently been registered in the country, which has a population of only about 11.5 million people. One week ago, Belgium registered 20,000 new infections in a single day.
There were also significant protests over the weekend against COVID restrictions in Italy, Croatia, Denmark and Switzerland.
In Germany, government ministers are trying their best to persuade more residents to sign up for vaccinations as infections rise amid warnings that even that is unlikely to be enough to reverse the trend.
Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Monday that restrictions already limiting activity in regions with the highest infection rates would not be sufficient to curb coronavirus, and she called on the rest of the country to bring back stricter rules.
Health Minister Jens Spahn, who on Friday warned that Europe’s largest economy could face a new nationwide shutdown as in neighboring Austria, said on Monday outright that by the end of winter, “almost everyone in Germany will have been vaccinated, healed or dead. “
As European governments look at introducing even tougher measures to keep their health systems from bursting, and with anger at these measures still growing, it seemed that the volatile situation would continue to spread and possibly get worse.
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