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Tens of thousands are protesting against restrictions on COVID-19, vaccine requirements across Europe


Tens of thousands of protesters, many from far-right groups, marched through Vienna on Saturday after the Austrian government announced a nationwide blockade starting Monday to control the country’s high rise in coronavirus infections.

Demonstrations against the virus also took place in Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands on Saturday, a day after Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in riots in Rotterdam.

Protesters rallied against coronavirus restrictions and mandatory COVID-19 cards needed in many European countries to access restaurants, Christmas markets or sporting events, as well as mandatory vaccinations.

The Austrian blockade will start on Monday. It will initially last for 10 days, but could go up to 20 days, officials said. Most shops will be closed and cultural events will be canceled. People will only be able to leave their homes for specific reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor, or exercising.

The government will also make vaccinations mandatory starting February 1. Not even 66 percent of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated and vaccines have dropped to one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.

Oficerët e policisë qëndrojnë në një rreth ndërsa kontrollojnë identitetin e protestuesve gjatë demonstratës në Vjenë të shtunën. (Florian Schroetter / The Associated Press)

Saturday’s march began in Vienna’s massive Heldenplatz square.

Cheering “Resistance!” and blowing whistles, the protesters moved through the inner ring of the city. Many waved Austrian flags and held placards mocking heads of government, such as Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.

Some wore doctor cleaning, while others wore sheet metal hats. Most of the signs focused on the next vaccine term: “My Body, My Choice,” read one. “We are protecting our children!” said another.

Among those protesting were members of far-right and far-right parties and groups, including the far-right Freedom Party, the MFG Vaccine Party and far-right Identitarians.

About 1,300 police officers were on duty and 35,000 protesters took part in various marches across the city, police said, adding that most did not wear masks. Police said several protesters were arrested, but no specific figures were given.

SEE | Europe sees growth, blockade ordered in Austria:

Europe is seeing an increase in cases of COVID-19, the blockade ordered in Austria

An increase in COVID-19 cases across Europe has forced some countries to reinstate restrictions. Austria will enter a nationwide blockade for 20 days, with plans to become the first European country to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all by February. 2:00 p.m.

Vaccinations in Austria have dropped to one of the lowest levels in Western Europe and hospitals in the hard-hit states have warned that their intensive care units are reaching capacity. The average daily deaths have tripled in recent weeks. Not even 66 percent of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated.

Schallenberg apologized to all the people vaccinated on Friday, saying it was not fair for them to suffer under the renewed restrictions of the blockade when they had done everything to help curb the virus.

“I’m sorry to take this drastic step,” he told public broadcaster ORF.

Demonstrations throughout Europe

In neighboring Switzerland, 2,000 people protested against an upcoming referendum on whether to pass the government law on COVID-19 restrictions, claiming it was discriminatory, public broadcaster SRF reported.

A day after the Rotterdam riots, thousands gathered on Saturday in Amsterdam’s central Dam Square to protest against government restrictions on the coronavirus, despite organizers canceling the protest. They walk quietly through the city streets, closely monitored by police.

Several hundred protesters also marched through the southern Dutch city of Breda to protest the blockade restrictions. One organizer, Joost Eras, told Dutch broadcaster NOS that he did not expect violence after consulting with police about security measures.

FRIEND | Police and rebels clash in Rotterdam:

Dutch police and rebels clash in protest of COVID-19 restrictions

Policia qëlloi të shtëna gjatë një proteste të dhunshme kundër masave COVID-19 në qytetin port holandez të Roterdamit të premten mbrëma. Injuries were reported both between the rebels and police, and 51 people were arrested. 2:53

“We certainly do not support what happened in Rotterdam. We were shocked by this,” he told NOS.

In Italy, 3,000 people took to the streets of the capital, Circus Maximus, an area where in ancient times the Romans organized popular entertainment, to protest the “Green Pass” certificates required in workplaces, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, sports facilities and gyms. as well as for travel by train, bus or ferry over long distances within Italy.

“People like us never give up,” read a banner in the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag. Virtually no one in the Rome protest wore a protective mask.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading, “No Green Pass, freedom”, during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Rome on Saturday. (Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press)

In Northern Ireland, several hundred people protesting vaccine passports protested outside the town hall in Belfast, where the town’s Christmas market opened on Saturday. Vaccination proof or a negative test for COVID-19 is required in the market.

The Government of Northern Ireland voted this week to introduce vaccine certificates for admission to nightclubs, bars and restaurants starting December 13th.

Some protesters carried signs that were widely criticized as offensive, comparing coronavirus restrictions to the actions of Nazi Germany.

In Croatia, thousands gathered in the capital Zagreb, holding Croatian flags, nationalist and religious symbols, along with banners against vaccination and what they describe as restrictions on people’s freedoms.

In France, Interior Minister Grald Darmanin on Saturday condemned violent protests on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, one of France’s overseas territories, over COVID-19 restrictions. Darmanin said 29 people had been arrested by police overnight. Authorities were sending another 200 police officers to the island and will impose a night curfew on Tuesday from 6pm to 5am.

Protesters in Guadeloupe have imposed roadblocks and set cars on fire. They denounce France’s health permit for COVID-19, which is now required to access restaurants and cafes, cultural sites, sports arenas and long-distance travel. They are also protesting against France’s mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers.




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