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Despite Covid spike, Europe sees protests against lockdowns, vaccine mandates


Agencies | | Written by Shankhyaneel Sarkar | Edited by Avik Roy, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Even as Europe has been witnessing a rising number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases across the continent, lockdowns have met with protests in the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland on Saturday. All of these nations, including Germany and Russia, which are seeing record infection levels, are imposing lockdown-like restrictions and banning unvaccinated people from venues, leading to riots and protests.

Soon after the Austrian government announced that it would impose a lockdown starting Monday and mandated its entire eligible population to get vaccinated within February, protesters took to streets in Vienna. The protests were spearheaded by right-wing political outfit Freedom Party who have vowed to oppose the new restrictions.

Thousands of protesters took to Vienna’s Heldenplatz chanting ‘Resistance’ and carried signs mocking Austrian chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and the nation’s health minister Wolfgang Mueckstein, news agency AP reported.

The Austrian lockdown will remain in place for 10 days following which the authorities will take a call on whether to extend it for another 10 days. Vaccinations in Austria are one of the lowest in western Europe and at least 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are vaccinated.

‘Orgy of violence’

The Netherlands’ Rotterdam saw violence as police were forced to fire bullets at protesters on Friday. Police arrested 51 anti-lockdown protesters on Saturday and said that a hunt is on for more instigators.

“Fifty-one people were arrested during the major disturbances on Friday evening and night on Coolsingel (street) in Rotterdam. About half of them were just underage,” Rotterdam Police said. The police also said that two of these protesters were also hit by a bullet when the police allegedly fired at protesters to disperse them. Ahmed Aboutaleb, Rotterdam mayor, called the protests an ‘orgy of violence’, news agency Reuters reported.

Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets of Amsterdam on Saturday to protest against the partial lockdown imposed by Dutch authorities.

A news report by AP says that protests are also expected to take place in Switzerland, Croatia and Italy against lockdown measures despite Europe seeing a rise in the number of cases, which health officials have attributed to not taking vaccines and not following Covid-19 preventative measures.

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