Europe again registers protests against restrictions amid rise of Covid

Europe again registers protests against restrictions amid rise of Covid

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets again in several northwestern European cities this Saturday (4) to protest against restrictions imposed to try to contain the rise of Covid-19 cases. The Netherlands, Austria and Germany, three countries that have recently taken stricter measures against the pandemic, have all registered protests.

In Vienna, more than 40,000 protesters marched, carrying placards with slogans such as “I’ll Decide For Myself” and “Make Austria Big Again” — a reference to a motto by former US President Donald Trump.

About 1,200 agents were mobilized to monitor the acts. Police said they would remind protesters to wear masks.

The Austrian government imposed a lockdown on the unvaccinated on November 22 and said it would make immunization against Covid mandatory from February.

Austria, a country of 8.9 million people, has registered nearly 1.2 million cases of coronaviruses and more than 12,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year. The number of new diagnoses has been falling since the start of the lockdown — which makes exceptions for protests.

In the Netherlands, in the city of Utrecht, thousands of protesters walked carrying banners with the words “Medical Freedom Now!” and waving country flags. There was a strong police presence.

They complained about what they see as growing pressure from the Dutch government to be vaccinated if they want to participate in society.

It is the first major demonstration in the Netherlands against the measures, which took effect on November 13 and include the nightly closing of bars, restaurants and most shops.

Two weeks ago, there were violent protests after the government announced plans to ban the majority of the unimmunized from bars, restaurants and other public places. These plans face widespread opposition in Parliament, including from governing coalition parties, and have not yet been implemented.

The rise in infections began with the relaxation of restrictions at the end of September, and put pressure on hospitals across the Netherlands, which are forced to reduce the number of patients with other diseases to treat those with Covid-19.

The strictest rules took effect on November 13th. Bars and supermarkets must close at 8 pm, and non-essential stores at 6 pm.

In the German financial capital, Frankfurt, police stopped a demonstration by several hundred people for not wearing masks or maintaining social distance. The agents used batons and pepper spray to disperse the acts.

In Berlin, where a new government is expected to take office in a few days, small groups rallied to protest after a single large demonstration was banned.

German politicians broadly condemned a protest by opponents of coronavirus restrictions that took place on Friday night outside the home of Petra Koepping, health minister for the state of Saxony, which currently has the highest infection rate in Germany.

Angela Merkel, the outgoing German prime minister, implemented a partial lockdown for unvaccinated citizens last week.

Those who did not receive doses of the immunizing agent will be prevented from accessing almost all establishments, except supermarkets and pharmacies, places considered essential, Merkel said. Additional tests will also be offered to citizens already immunized.

This Saturday, the prime minister released what may be her last message in office to the Germans. The speech reinforced the seriousness of the pandemic situation in the country and the request for people to have injections.

“We are in a very serious situation, which in some parts of the country can only be described as dramatic, with ICUs crowded and people having to be taken to other parts of Germany to get the necessary treatment,” Merkel said. “That’s why I urgently appeal: take the virus seriously. Get vaccinated. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first dose or the booster, every dose helps.”


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