Europe descended into a third day of violent carnage on Sunday as rioters in Groningen in the northern Netherlands started fires and threw stones at police while rallying against the latest anti-Covid measures.
It occurred as tens of thousands of people in Belgium took to the streets to protest against the return of strict lockdown rules aimed at curbing a rise in Covid infections.
Nearly 40,000 people marched on the capital Brussels to protest against new rules banning the unvaccinated from entering restaurants and bars.
Some protesters were seen throwing projectiles at riot police and in response, officers fired water cannon and tear gas at the group. Police have made some arrests, but it is not immediately clear how many.
Video footage from Brussels shows a large group of protesters shouting at police as some light flares and throw them at the officers. One man can even be seen mooning at them.
Rioters in Groningen pelted police officers with stones and started fires as Europe was beset by a third day of violent protests over anti-Covid measures
Groningen was one of the Dutch cities beset by protests after the Netherlands entered a partial lockdown on Saturday, sparking a furious backlash against the government
The protests descended into chaos, with some of the protesters seen setting fires on the streets while others threw rocks through the windows of local businesses including a post office. Two police cars have also been damaged.
The protest came just hours after it emerged Germany is set to follow Austria’s example in making vaccinations compulsory with ministers admitting that the move is ‘unavoidable’ amid a fourth wave of the pandemic which is crippling the country’s hospitals.
Last night also saw similar demonstrations against virus restrictions take place in Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Northern Ireland, Austria and North Macedonia on Saturday, a day after Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in rioting that erupted in Rotterdam.
Europe has become the epicentre of the pandemic once again, with the World Health Organisation warning that the Continent was the only region in the world where deaths had increased as Covid-related fatalities spiked by five per cent just this week.
In France, the government has warned that the fifth wave of coronavirus are rising at ‘lightning speed’, with new daily Covid cases close to doubling over the past week.
In Belgium, cases have been surging, with infections reaching 13,836 on Sunday. In response, the government has introduced restrictions including a ban on the unvaccinated from venues such as restaurants and bars, and an order to work from home at least four days a week.
Police said 35,000 protesters marched from the North Station in Brussels on Sunday afternoon against a fresh round of Covid measures announced by the government on Wednesday.
The demonstration, called ‘Together for Freedom’, saw some protesters clash with riot police near the Belgian capital’s EU and government district. Many of the protesters caught up in the clash were wearing hoods and carried Flemish nationalist flags.
A total of 42 people were detained and two were arrested in the riots. Meanwhile, three police officers were injured and taken to hospital and one protester was hurt after a firework exploded in his hand.
Protesters set up fire in the street during a demonstration against Belgium government’s measures to curb the spread of Covid-19
A street in Brussels is left smouldering as Protesters continue to demonstrate against the Covid vaccine being made compulsory
Protesters face riot place clash during an anti-coronavirus measures protest in Brussels, as a flare goes off and debris litters the road
Belgian police hold their shields and batons as flares are released by demonstrators protesting a mandatory Covid vaccine
Police intervene in demonstrators as they gather around Nord Train Station to protest against mandatory Covid-19 vaccine
People dressed in black protest against coronavirus disease measures near the European Commission in Brussels
Nearly 40,000 people descended on the Belgian capital of Brussels before the protest turned into a riot that left four people injured, including one demonstrator who was hurt after a firework exploded in his hand
Demonstrators gather around Nord Train Station to protest against mandatory Covid-19 vaccine, in Brussels, the Belgian capital
Protesters used whistles and even a traditional animal horn to voice their displeasure at heightened Covid measures in Brussels
Police take security measurements as people gather around Nord Train Station to protest against mandatory Covid-19 vaccine, in Brussels, Belgium
Europe descended into a third day of violent carnage on Sunday as tens of thousands of people in Belgium took to the streets to protest against the return of strict lockdown rules aimed at curbing a rise in Covid infections
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Brussels today as violence erupted. Protesters can be seen holding a sign which reads ‘Freedom over slavery’
Riot police are seen raising their shields against a group of protesters who are demonstrating against the Belgian government’s anti-Covid measures
A group of protesters in Brussels face a line of riot police officers who are seen carrying batons and shields on Sunday
Protesters took to the streets of Brussels on Sunday to protests against the Covid-19 measures. This sign reads: ‘They can vaccinate the whole world but leave the hungry’
Nearly 40,000 people descended on the capital Brussels to protest against new anti-Covid measures banning the unvaccinated from entering restaurants and bars
Protesters set fire to piles of wood in the middle of roads and threw bricks through the windows of buildings, including a local post office.
Several police officers were injured after protesters threw bottles and fireworks at them.
Last week, Belgium’s Prime Minister Last week, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said ‘the alarm signals are all red’ as he imposed tough restrictions, ordering people to work at home for at least four days a week.
Under new restrictions, all people in indoor venues such as cafes and restaurants will need to wear a mask unless seated and the rule will apply to those aged 10 or older. The previous age threshold was 12.
Nightclubs may have to test their guests if they want to let them dance mask-free. People wanting to eat in a restaurant or go to the theatre already must present a COVID pass, showing vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery.
Most Belgians will also have to work from home four days a week until mid-December, and for three days after that.
Belgium has one of the highest cases per capita rates in the European Union, behind only the Baltic and former Yugoslav nations and Austria, at around one per hundred people over the past 14 days, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
‘The alarm signals are all red,’ prime minister Alexander De Croo told a news conference. ‘We had all hoped to have a winter without coronavirus, but Belgium is not an island.’
Niels Van Regenmortel, the intensive care units coordinator at the ZNA Stuivenberg hospital in Antwerp, said there was an increasing risk hospitals in Belgium will have to resort to triage as ICUs fill up amid soaring COVID-19 numbers, calling on the government to restrict night life.
In Germany, the number of Covid cases are soaring daily, with the country reporting 48,201 infections on Saturday – the highest number of new coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
The fourth wave is overwhelming hospitals, with health chiefs warning that the situation is ‘extremely critical’ across the country.
In France, fifth-wave coronavirus infections are rising at an alarming rate, the government reported Sunday, with new daily Covid cases close to doubling over the past week.
In Germany, a relatively low vaccination rate – hovering under 70 per cent – has left the country vulnerable to the virus.
Germany’s federal tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiß has now said the worsening situation makes it clear that compulsory vaccination is ‘unavoidable’.
Bareiß told DPA news agency: ‘In retrospect, it was wrong not to see that right from the start. The hope at that time is understandable, but it was not realistic.’
His calls were echoed by the Prime Minister of Bavaria, which has seen Covid cases surge, who said ‘in the end we will not be able to avoid compulsory vaccination’.
The above graph shows the Covid infection rate per million people for western European countries from November last year. It reveals that Slovakia has the highest infection rate in the region, followed by Austria
The number of Covid cases are soaring daily in Germany, with the country reporting 48,201 infections on Saturday – the highest number of new coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic
People take part in a demonstration against Belgium government’s measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 on Sunday
Riot police uses a water canon against protesters during a demonstration against the reinforced measures of the Belgium government to counter the latest spike of the coronavirus in Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday
People take part in a demonstration against Covid-19 measures, including the country’s health pass, in Brussels on Sunday
Protesters clash with riot police during a demonstration against Belgium government’s measures to curb the spread of Covid
Last week, Belgium’s Prime Minister Last week, Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said ‘the alarm signals are all red’ as he imposed tough restrictions, ordering people to work at home for at least four days a week. Pictured: Protesters in Brussels on Sunday
Riot police raise their shields as they clash with protesters on a bridge in Brussels on Sunday during anti-vaccine demonstrations
Thousands of protesters, many of them peaceful, marched through the streets of Brussels on Sunday. Some held signs which read ‘Stand up for your rights’ and ‘Stop the madness’
Mr Bareiß, the tourism commissioner of Germany’s federal government, said a compulsory vaccination is ‘unavoidable’.
Putin tells Russia he had Covid booster jab
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday he had taken a third dose of a Covid vaccine, as the country struggled with a fresh wave of the virus.
‘I had it two hours ago,’ Putin said on state television channel Rossiya 24, assuring viewers that his booster injection of the Sputnik vaccine had been painless.
The authorities are struggling to convince people to get vaccinated against Covid, even as a fresh wave of the virus is killing record numbers every day.
Even though Russia has several vaccines that it has manufactured itself, only 36.7 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Gogov website, which tracks the data.
Putin, who said he opposes universal mandatory vaccination, has backed measures taken in some regions for certain people. For example, in June, authorities in Moscow said vaccination would be obligatory for anyone working in the service sector.
Russia recorded more than 9.3 million cases of Covid and just over 264,000 deaths, which makes it the worst-hit country in Europe.
The actual toll from the pandemic there was closer to 450,000 at the end of September, according to figures from the Rosstat statistics agency however, which works with a broader definition of Covid-linked deaths.
He said: ‘For me it is politically no longer justifiable that entire industries, retailers, restaurants, clubs, bars and the entire cinema, cultural and event scene live in a state of crisis prescribed by the state for 20 months and are faced with great existential fears, while others are concerned take the freedom not to vaccinate.
‘So far, historical measures and sums of money have been able to save many companies. That doesn’t work in the long run.’
In Bavaria, there has been a ‘dramatic’ coronavirus resurgence. It prompted the Bavarian state capital of Munich to become the first major German city to cancel its Christmas market, which usually draws some three million visitors.
The Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder said he believes the country will ‘not be able to avoid’ compulsory vaccination.
He told Berliner Zeitung: ‘I believe that in the end we will not be able to avoid compulsory vaccination. Otherwise it will be an endless loop with this coronavirus.’
The director of Frankfurt University Hospital said the situation in intensive care units in the state of Hesse is ‘critical’.
Jürgen Graf, who is also the head of the planning staff for the inpatient care of Covid patients in Hesse at the Ministry of Health, told Bild: ‘The situation is extremely critical. What we are currently doing is crisis management.’
He added: ‘This is not a problem for Covid patients, it affects everyone,’ explaining that inpatient care and the care of emergency patients are ‘impaired’ due to longer wait times.
The warning comes as a hospital in Bavaria’s Freising last week made the unprecedented decision to transfer a Covid-19 patient to northern Italy because it ‘had no more capacity to receive them, and the surrounding hospitals were also full.’
Almost one per cent of the new infections end up in the intensive care unit, Graf said. ‘Given the current number of infections, that would be 50 or more patients per week in addition to the approximately 250 patients treated there today,’ he added. ‘Then in a few weeks we will be well above last winter’s high.’
The fourth wave is overwhelming hospitals, with health chiefs warning that the situation is ‘extremely critical’ across the country. Pictured: Doctors and nurses tend to a patient on the Covid-19 intensive care unit at University Hospital Leipzig on November 18
THE NETHERLANDS: A day after Rotterdam rioting that saw seven people injured, thousands more took to Amsterdam’s central Dam Square and The Hague (pictured above), with seven arrests being made according to police
AUSTRIA: Protesters carrying a banner reading ‘Control the border. Not your people’ at the anti-lockdown demonstration held by the far-right Freedom Party in Vienna today
The fourth wave of infections has plunged Germany, Europe’s largest economy, into a national emergency, Health Minister Jens Spahn said. He urged people to reduce their social contacts, warning that vaccinations alone would not reduce case numbers.
Asked if Germany could rule out an Austrian-style full lockdown, Spahn said: ‘We are now in a situation – even if this produces a news alert – where we can’t rule anything out.
‘We are in a national emergency,’ he told a news conference.
Their comments come after the upper house of parliament on Friday approved new measures to control the outbreak proposed by the centre-left alliance that emerged after the September 26 national election.
Three people treated in hospital and inquiry launched after Dutch police fired warning shots during Rotterdam riots
Three people were being treated in hospital in Rotterdam on Saturday after they were seriously injured when Dutch police fired shots during a violent protest against COVID-19 measures, authorities said.
Crowds of several hundred rioters torched cars, set off fireworks and threw rocks at police during the protests on Friday evening. Police responded with warning shots and water canons.
Rotterdam police posted on Twitter on Saturday that 51 people had been arrested, half of whom were under 18.
‘Three rioters were wounded when they were hit by bullets, they remain in hospital,’ police added, in an update after earlier reporting two wounded.
Authorities are investigating the shootings including whether the wounded people where hit by police bullets, they added.
The city’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, said the protest had turned into ‘an orgy of violence.’
‘Police were forced to draw their weapons and even fire direct shots,’ he told a news conference early on Saturday.
Dutch Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said in a statement the ‘extreme violence’ against police and firefighters in Rotterdam was ‘repulsive.’
‘The right to protest is very important in our society but what we saw last night was simply criminal behaviour,’ Grapperhaus said.
Protesters had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have a ‘corona pass,’ showing they have been vaccinated or have already recovered from an infection.
The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated, but have proof of a negative test.
The measures include requirements for people to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from Covid-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces or public transport.
Separately, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with the governors of Germany’s 16 states to introduce a new threshold linked to the number of hospital admissions of Covid-19 patients per 100,000 people over a seven-day period.
The new three-tier system would require people to show evidence of a vaccination or previous infection to enter public buildings or businesses in states where hospitalisation rates go above 3 in 100,000 people, based on a seven-day average. At present, that will affect 9 of Germany’s 16 states.
In France, the seven-day average of new cases reached 17,153 on Saturday, up from 9,458 a week earlier, according to the health authorities, an increase of 81 percent.
‘The fifth wave is starting at lightning speed,’ government spokesman Gabrial Attal said.
The latest seven-day increase is three times the average rise of cases recorded over the previous three weeks, indicating an exponential acceleration of infections.
For now the spike in infections has not led to a massive influx of Covid patients into hospitals, with the authorities attributing the limited number of intensive care patients to France’s high rate of vaccinations which appear highly effective against the most dangerous forms of Covid.
On Saturday, hospitals reported a total of 7,974 Covid patients in their care, with 1,333 of them in intensive treatment. This compares to 6,500 and 1,000, respectively, a month earlier.
‘There is a very strong increase in infections, but we also know that in France we have a very large vaccination cover,’ he said. ‘We seem to be ahead of our neighbours concerning booster shots.’
France’s introduction of a health pass ahead of other countries in the summer was also helping to keep Covid in check, he said.
The health pass, required in French restaurants, cafes and many cultural venues, certifies that a person is fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from Covid, or has tested negative for the virus.
The government continues to stand by its choice to ‘bring the weight of restrictions to bear on non-vaccinated people rather than vaccinated people’, Attal said
Last night, Europe descended into a second night of violent carnage amid the return of strict lockdown rules aimed at curbing rising rates of Covid infection.
Thousands of people took to Amsterdam’s central Dam Square and the Hague on Saturday, a day after the ‘orgy of violence’ during the Rotterdam riots that saw seven people injured. Police said seven arrests were made on Sunday after youths set streets ablaze and shot fireworks at officers.
Video footage from the Hague showed motorists sounding their horns in support as a trio of small explosions could be clearly seen on the main road in the background. Elsewhere, protesters were pictured ripping down street signs in chaotic scenes.
Anti-riot police were forced to clear the wreckage of smouldering scooters and burnt-out bicycles that were torched by the anti-vax mob and left to block roads in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the country since Covid restrictions were first implemented.
Meanwhile, similar demonstrations against virus restrictions also took place in Switzerland, Croatia, Italy, Northern Ireland, Austria and North Macedonia on Saturday, a day after Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in rioting that erupted in Rotterdam.
It comes as violence broke out in Vienna on Saturday as 10,000 protesters – many from far-right groups – took to the streets to demonstrate against new Covid-19 restrictions and mandatory vaccinations.
Police were pictured arresting two protesters. A spokesman said there had been fewer than 10 arrests, for breaches of coronavirus restrictions and the ban on Nazi symbols. Some protesters mockingly wore doctor’s scrubs, while others wore the yellow stars as badges in reference to Nazi Germany’s policy of forcing Jews to wear the badge as identification.
Chanting ‘resistance!’, waving Austrian flags and blowing whistles, the crowd swelled to more than 30,000. Many held signs mocking government leaders including Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.
Protesters rallied against coronavirus restrictions and mandatory COVID-19 passes needed in many European countries to enter restaurants, Christmas markets or sports events, as well as mandatory vaccinations.
The Austrian protest, which was promoted by the far-right opposition Freedom Party, became violent and five police officers were injured – a development which Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer slammed as ‘unacceptable’.
Nehammer told a press conference on Sunday morning: ‘If at a meeting that is organised and promoted by a parliamentary party, where police officers are attacked and Nazi crimes are played down by wearing the Jewish star, that is unacceptable.’
The protesters had worn the yellow Jewish star as badges, with the words ‘unvaccinated’ stitched on, as they compared the lockdown and mandatory vaccination measures with the atrocities of the Nazi era.
Nehammer said: ‘This is not only completely tasteless, it plays down the crimes of the National Socialists and offends the millions of victims of the Nazi dictatorship and their families.’
The interior minister said some of the protesters were from right-wing extremist groups, with some setting fire to a police car and confessing that they ‘wanted to burn a police officer’.
‘This is an extent of radicalisation that is by no means acceptable,’ Nehammer said, adding that the police officers ‘professionally ensured security in a difficult mission’.
AUSTRIA: Thousands of residents – one holding a sign reading ‘no to mandatory vaccination’ – today gathered in Vienna to demonstrate against new Covid restrictions amid soaring infection rates across the continent
In Italy, 3,000 turned out in the capital’s Circus Maximus, a field where in ancient times Romans staged popular entertainment, to protest against ‘Green Pass’ certificates required at workplaces, restaurants, cinemas, theaters, sports venues and gyms, as well as for long-distance train, bus or ferry travel within Italy.
In Northern Ireland, several hundred people opposed to vaccine passports protested outside the city hall in Belfast, where the city’s Christmas market opened Saturday – a market where proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test was required.
The Northern Ireland government voted this week to introduce vaccine certificates for admission to nightclubs, bars and restaurants starting Dec. 13.
‘People like us never give up,’ read one banner, in the red, white and green colors of the Italian flag. Virtually no one at the Rome protest wore a protective mask.
Switzerland saw 2,000 people protest an upcoming referendum on whether to approve the government’s COVID-19 restrictions law, claiming it was discriminatory, public broadcaster SRF reported.
In Croatia, thousands gathered at in the capital Zagreb, carrying Croatian flags, nationalist and religious symbols, along with banners against vaccination and what they describe as restrictions of people’s freedoms.
And in Denmark, more than one thousand gathered outside the Danish parliament in Copenhagen to push back against the reintroduction of the national health pass.
North Macedonia also saw hundreds of anti-vaccination protesters march in downtown Skopje on Satruday evening against the country’s health authority’s recommendation of mandatory vaccinations.
Demonstrations against virus measures are also expected in other European countries – the latest in rising anger at the re-introduction of restrictions amid soaring cases on the continent.
This comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) said it was ‘very worried’ about the spread of Covid-19 within Europe as the continent battles a fresh wave of infections.
Regional director Dr Hans Kluge told the BBC that some 500,000 more deaths could be recorded by March unless urgent action is taken.
THE NETHERLANDS: Riot police were forced to clear the wreckage of smouldering scooters and burnt-out bicycles (left) that were set ablaze by the anti-vax mob and left to block roads
THE NETHERLANDS: A scooter set on fire during a protest against the 2G policy in Coolsingel, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 19 November 2021. Hundreds of demonstrators have gathered to protest against the tightened coronavirus measures
ITALY: Demonstrators listen to speakers and show their mobile phones during a protest against restrictions for the unvaccinated, at Rome Circus Maximus, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021
NORTHERN IRELAND: Demonstrators take part in a protest against Covid certification in Belfast city centre. PA Photo. Picture date: Saturday November 20, 2021
CROATIA: Demonstrators march in the centre of Zagreb to protest against Covid-19 measures such as obligatory certificates for public sector on November 20, 2021
SWITZERLAND: Demonstrators protest against a planned coronavirus disease (COVID-19) law of the Swiss government, in Zurich, Switzerland November 20, 2021
ROMANIA: Activists armed with banners march during a protest against vaccinations, the introduction of the controversial health pass, and Covid lockdown-style measures in Bucharest, Romania on Sunday, November 7
NORTH MACEDONIA: People protest through downtown Skopje, North Macedonia, on Saturday, November 20, 2021
Elite troops sent in to police France’s overseas territories amid looting and arson over Covid curfew
France sent dozens of elite police and counter-terrorism officers to its Caribbean island of Guadeloupe Saturday following looting and arson overnight in defiance of an overnight curfew.
The island’s prefect on Friday introduced the night-time stay-at-home order after protests against the coronavirus vaccine pass spiralled into violence the previous night.
But the measure did little to quell the rioting. ‘The night was very turbulent,’ a police source said.
The security forces recorded ‘some 20 incidents of looting or attempted robbery’ in the seaside towns of Pointe-a-Pitre and Le Gosier, including at a jewellery shop, a bank, a betting shop and a shopping centre.
In the town of Saint-Francois to the east, ‘gendarmes coming out of the station were threatened by blazing projectiles’.
A second source within the gendarmerie said an armoury had been looted.
The first source said ‘firearms were used against police forces in four different areas’ across the island, and one member was slightly wounded after a stone hit him in the face.
In the area of Le Petit-Bourg to the west, firemen had to put out fires in two mobile phone stores, which had also been plundered.
The interior ministry said 31 people had been arrested.
France late Saturday said it was sending around 50 personnel from both its RAID elite police force and its GIGN counter-terrorism unit to Guadeloupe.
The doctors’ union in Guadeloupe warned against further trouble while the health system was so ‘fragile’.
They criticised ‘individuals who may have prevented patients from getting access to treatment, or medical staff from reaching their place of practice’.
While most people in mainland France have now received two vaccination doses, rates in its overseas territories have lagged behind.
By November 16, some 46 percent of adults in Guadeloupe had received at least one jab of a vaccine against Covid.
Five police officers were injured during rioting at the Hague, with one taken to hospital suffering concussion and two suffering hearing damage from loud fireworks,.
A rock thrown by rioters also smashed the window of a passing ambulance carrying a patient, the city’s police force said.
Elsewhere in the Netherlands, two football matches in the Eredivise, the top professional league, were briefly halted after fans – banned from matches under a partial lockdown in force in the Netherlands for a week – broke into stadiums in the towns of Alkmaar and Almelo.
Earlier Saturday, two protests against COVID-19 measures went off peacefully in Amsterdam and the southern city of Breda.
Police said in a tweet that seven people were arrested in The Hague and five officers were injured. One needed treatment in a hospital. Local media reported that rioters threw bicycles, wooden pallets and motorized scooters on one of the fires.
The chaos in The Hague was on a smaller scale than the pitched battles on the streets of Rotterdam on Friday night, when police said that three rioters were hit by bullets and investigations were underway to establish if they were shot by police.
Officers in Rotterdam arrested 51 people, about half of them minors, police said Saturday afternoon. One police officer was hospitalized with a leg injury sustained in the rioting, another was treated by ambulance staff and ‘countless’ others suffered minor injuries.
Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters in the early hours of Saturday morning that ‘on a number of occasions the police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves’ as rioters rampaged through the port city’s central shopping district, setting fires and throwing rocks and fireworks at officers.
‘They shot at protesters, people were injured,’ Aboutaleb said. He did not have details on the injuries. Police also fired warning shots.
Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus condemned the events. ‘The riots and extreme violence against police officers, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are disgusting to see,’ he said in a statement.
‘Protesting is a great right in our society, but what we saw last night is simply criminal behavior. It has nothing to do with demonstrating,’ he added.
An independent investigation into the shootings by police was opened, as is the case whenever Dutch police use their weapons.
As the march kicked off on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, thousands of protesters gathered on the massive square. About 1,300 police officers were on duty. They used loudspeakers to tell protesters masks were required, but most did not wear them.
Chanting ‘resistance!’ and blowing whistles, protesters began to move slowly down the city’s inner ring road. Many waved Austrian flags and carried signs mocking government leaders like Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.
Some wore doctor’s scrubs; others donned tinfoil hats. Most of the signs focused on the newly announced vaccine mandate: ‘My Body, My Choice,’ read one. ‘We’re Standing Up for Our Kids!’ said another.
By mid-afternoon the crowds had swelled to roughly 35,000 people, according to the police, and were marching down Vienna’s inner ring road before heading back towards the Hofburg.
Police were pictured arresting two protesters. A spokesman said there had been fewer than 10 arrests, for breaches of coronavirus restrictions and the ban on Nazi symbols.
Meanwhile, a few hundred protesters gathered in Amsterdam today and a similar number marched through the southern city of Breda over the latest Covid-19 measures.
Riots also erupted in the central ‘Bible Belt’ town of Urk and cities in southern Limburg province, while angry fans disrupted two football matches being played behind closed doors because of coronavirus rules, Dutch media said.
It comes after violent riots last night in which 51 were arrested in Rotterdam after thousands of anti-lockdown protesters gathered on one of the city’s main shopping streets.
Dutch police fired water canons, ‘warning shots’ and bullets at protesters to disperse the crowd who had lit fires and set off fireworks. Police confirmed seven injuries, including officers, in the violence but did not say if live ammunition or rubber bullets were fired.
The Netherlands re-imposed some lockdown measures last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
The Dutch government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country’s coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 – that would exclude people who test negative.
The violent scenes in Rotterdam mirrored much of the continent’s reaction to similar schemes announced by Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia – with Italy and Greece also reportedly considering moves to restrict the movements of unvaccinated people.
AUSTRIA: Anti-lockdown protesters hold lit torches and banners reading: ‘Hands off our children’ as they continue their protests against Covid-19 restrictions on Sunday, November 20
AUSTRIA: Riot police stand in a circle as they prepare for potential violence in Vienna hours after an estimated 35,000 protesters gathered in the Austrian capital to protests Covid-19 restrictions
AUSTRIA: Demonstrators pass the State Opera during a rally held by Austria’s far-right Freedom Party in Vienna on Saturday
AUSTRIA: A protester wears a respirator mask during a demonstration against the measures of the Austrian government to slow surging Covid-19 cases
DENMARK: Demonstrators in balaclavas hold torches and lit flares as they march during a ‘Men in Black’ protest against new government restrictions in Copenhagen
THE NETHERLANDS: At least one person was shot and six more injured in Rotterdam last night as Dutch riot police opened fire on protesters in an ‘orgy of violence’
THE NETHERLANDS: An ambulance drives past bicycles and scooters that were set ablaze by a mob as riots erupt in The Hague over new controversial Covid restrictions
THE NETHERLANDS: Rioters set police vehicles ablaze as anti-lockdown protests turned to riots in Coolsingel street, Rotterdam, on Friday evening
THE NETHERLANDS: Piles of burned bikes lay strewn across the streets of Rotterdam on Saturday morning following anti-lockdown protests after the government announced its 2G policy, restricted unvaccinated people’s access to certain venues
THE NETHERLANDS: Police manhandle a protester as anti-lockdown demonstrations in Coolsingel Street in Rotterdam turned violent yesterday evening
DENMARK: A protester addresses the crowd at the ‘Men in Black’ demonstration against new Government-led Covid restrictions in Copenhagen on Saturday, Nov 20
DENMARK: Masked members of the ‘Men in Black’ demonstrations harass a group of customers enjoying an evening meal in Copenhagen as the group protests the reintroduction of the green pass in the country
ITALY: : People protest during a demonstration organized by No Green Pass and No Vax movements against the Green Pass Covid-19 health certificate, at Circo Massimo, on November 20, 2021 in Rome
CROATIA: A man burns a flag during a protest against vaccination and coronavirus measures in Zagreb, Saturday
Austria becomes first EU country to mandate jabs
Austria on Friday became the first EU country to announce it would make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory and will next week impose a partial lockdown in the face of spiralling infections.
The lockdown, which comes into effect on Monday, constitutes the toughest restrictions introduced in Europe in recent weeks as Covid-19 cases surge continent-wide, fuelled by vaccine resistance.
Austrians will not be allowed to leave home except to go to work, shop for essentials and exercise. The restrictions will initially last 20 days with an evaluation after 10 days, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said.
Vaccination against Covid-19 in the Alpine nation will be mandatory from February 1 next year, Schallenberg said. So far, the Vatican alone in Europe has imposed a vaccination mandate.
The World Health Organization continues to favour policies that ‘demonstrate the benefit and safety of vaccines for the greatest possible acceptance of vaccines, rather than imposed mandatory vaccination,’ spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva.
Austria has already imposed movement restrictions on those not vaccinated or recently recovered from the virus, ordering them to stay at home since Monday, becoming the first EU country to do so.
But infections have continued to rise. On Friday, a new record of more than 15,800 new cases was recorded in the EU member of nearly nine million people.
Reporting by AFP
Austrians are protesting against a new national lockdown and mandatory vaccinations, which the government said yesterday would be rolled out on February 1.
Vaccinations in Austria have plateaued at one of the lowest rates in Western Europe – under 66 per cent – and hospitals in heavily hit states have warned that their intensive care units are reaching capacity.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said yesterday the country would go in lockdown for 10 days.
The shutdown will then reevaluated and could be extended for a further 10 days.
Most stores will close, and cultural events will be canceled.
People will be able to leave their homes only for certain specific reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.
Average daily deaths have tripled in recent weeks and its infections are among the highest in Europe, with a seven-day incidence of 991 per 100,000 people.
‘We have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,’ Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference.
‘It hurts that such measures still have to be taken.’
Schallenberg also apologised to all vaccinated people on Friday night saying it was not fair they had to suffer under the renewed lockdown restrictions when they had done everything to help contain the virus.
‘I’m sorry to take this drastic step,’ he said on public broadcaster ORF.
Despite the violence a day earlier, around 300 protesters marched through the southern Dutch town of Breda near the Belgian border on Saturday carrying banners with slogans such as ‘No Lockdown’.
Organisers said they opposed Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s plans to exclude the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants.
A group that had called an Amsterdam protest for Saturday, United We Stand Europe, said on Facebook it had cancelled the rally because ‘last night, all hell broke loose in Rotterdam’.
But several hundred flag-waving protesters still gathered in central Dam Square, watched over by police vans, according to Dutch media and images on social media.
AUSTRIA: Demonstrators wave the flag of the Austrian far-right Freedom Party during a rally against a new national lockdown and mandatory vaccinations in Vienna today
AUSTRIA: People burn smoke bombs as they take part in a demonstration against the country’s coronavirus restrictions in Vienna today
AUSTRIA: Protesters with a banner ‘Control the borders’ attend a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna today
AUSTRIA: A demonstrator shouts during a protest against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna on Saturday
AUSTRIA: A demonstrator lets off a blue smoke bomb during a Vienna rally against new Covid-19 restrictions announced by Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg
AUSTRIA: Demonstrators shout slogans and light flares during a demonstration against measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic in Vienna
AUSTRIA: Saturday’s demonstration in Vienna is the latest in rising anger at the re-introduction of restrictions amid soaring cases on the continent
AUSTRIA: Demonstrators on top of a building near Maria Theresien Platz square in Vienna light flares as they protest new Covid-19 restrictions announced by Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg yesterday
AUSTRIA: demonstrator in Vienna holds a placard asking ‘European friends’ to ‘help us’ after the Austria government yesterday announced the country would go back into lockdown from Monday
AUSTRIA: People take part in a demonstration against the country’s coronavirus restrictions in Vienna, Austria, on Saturday afternoon
AUSTRIA: People carrying the flag of the far-right Freedom party walk past the parliament as they take part in a demonstration against the country’s coronavirus restrictions in Vienna
AUSTRIA: Demonstrators light flares during a rally held by Austria’s far-right Freedom Party against Covid restrictions after Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced the country would go back into lockdown from Monday
AUSTRIA: Thousands of people turned out to protest in the Austrian capital, Vienna, today after the government announced vaccinations would be mandatory from February 1
AUSTRIA: A man wearing a hazmat suit and carrying a cucumber with the slogan ‘Mobile PCR tester’ attends a protest against new Covid-19 measures in Vienna today
AUSTRIA: Police walk in front of a demonstration march through the capital, Vienna, today as thousands gather to protest against new Covid-19 restrictions
AUSTRIA: Demonstrators climb on a fence in central Vienna, Austria, to gain a better vantage point over protests over new restrictions today
AUSTRIA: Police officers detain a man during a demonstration on Vienna’s Heldenplatz in which thousands of protesters gathered on the massive square. They used loudspeakers to tell protesters masks were required, but most did not wear them
AUSTRIA: Demonstrators hold up banners and placards during a rally held by Austria’s far-right Freedom Party against the government’s latest Covid-19 measures in Vienna today
AUSTRIA: Thousands of people today took part in a demonstration in Vienna against the country’s Covid-19 restrictions after the government said yesterday Austria would go back into lockdown from Monday and make vaccinations mandatory
THE NETHERLANDS: Protesters light candles ahead of a moment of silence during an anti-lockdown protest in Amsterdam today
THE NETHERLANDS: A protester holds a sign reading ‘the truth becomes clear when we unwire fear’ during a protest against Covid-19 restrictions in Amsterdam on Saturday
THE NETHERLANDS: Protesters dance during a rally in Amsterdam against new Covid-19 restrictions amid soaring cases in Europe
THE NETHERLANDS: Several hundred flag-waving protesters still gathered in central Dam Square in Amsterdam, watched over by police vans, according to Dutch media and images on social media
THE NETHERLANDS: Protesters pass the window of a sex worker (right) during a demonstration against new Covid-19 restrictions in the Netherlands
THE NETHERLANDS: Demonstrators carrying signs reading ‘taking things away from people until they say yes is not a choice’ march through Amsterdam during an anti-lockdown protest today
THE NETHERLANDS: People march during a protest against the latest measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the cancellation of the event after violence marred protests in Rotterdam last night
Footage from the Rotterdam violence showed burnt out police cars and rioters throwing fireworks and rocks at police, while photos in Dutch media showed at least one police car ablaze and another with a bicycle smashed through the windshield.
Local news outlet NL Times reported that a journalist was attacked of the street, while local broadcaster Rijnmond said the reporter was beaten and his camera was destroyed. Local media also reported gangs of soccer hooligans were involved in the rioting.
One eyewitness – a press photographer – told local media they saw shell casings ‘everywhere on the floor’.
Cops also said it was ‘unclear how or by whom’ two people were shot during the chaos. Video from social media on Dutch broadcaster NOS appeared to show the person being hit in Rotterdam, but there was no explanation on what happened.
Officers arrested 51 protesters last night and were expected to detain several more after studying video footage from security cameras.
Late on Friday night, police said downtown Rotterdam remained restive and there was still a heavy police presence on the streets.
Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters in the early hours of Saturday morning that ‘on a number of occasions the police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves’ as rioters ran rampage through the port city’s central shopping district, setting fires and throwing rocks and fireworks at officers.
‘They shot at protesters, people were injured,’ Aboutaleb said, adding that several officers were injured in the violence.
Police spokesperson Patricia Wessels confirmed that police fired shots, though it was not immediately clear what type of rounds were fired.
‘We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening,’ she said. ‘We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further.’
Police said that riot police later launched charges at the demonstrators, adding: ‘The water launcher has been deployed.’
The situation had largely calmed late on Friday but the smoking wreckage of a burned-out police car and dozens of smashed bicycles littered the scene, an AFP reporter said.
Police tweeted that rioters started fires and threw fireworks during the rioting and authorities closed the city’s main railway station and officers lined up on the streets of Rotterdam
Pictured: A scooter is seen set ablaze in Rotterdam on Friday night as people too to the streets against Covid restrictions
A scooter in Rotterdam city centre that was burnt out during anti-lockdown riots on Friday night after thousands of people took to the streets over the government’s 2G policy that restricts unvaccinated people from certain venues
Hundreds of people gather during a protest against the 2G (Covid-pass) policy in Coolsingel, Rotterdam, Netherlands, 19 November 2021
Demonstrators take part in a protest against a partial coronavirus lockdown and against the government policy on Coolsingel street on November 19, 2021 in the port city of Rotterdam
Left: A grab from footage that appeared to show a person being shot in Rotterdam on Friday night (circled). Right: A grab showing the moment a police officer was kicked over in the riots, capture on video
Damaged police cars and bikes littered the streets after an anti-lockdown protest turned into the riots in Coolsingel street in Rotterdam on Friday night
A burned police car surrounded by warped bike frames seen on the streets of Rotterdam early on Saturday after an ‘orgy of violence’ during anti-lockdown protests
Carnage lined the streets of Rotterdam on Saturday morning after a night of violent demonstrations in which one person was shot and at least six more injured
There appeared to be dried blood on the streets of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, early on Saturday following violent anti-lockdown protests in the city overnight
Britain’s SAGE adviser says UK WON’T see a spike in Covid cases but warns Europe lockdown riots are a ‘warning to us’
A SAGE adviser has moved to reassure Britons the UK will not see a spike in Covid-19 cases like Austria and Germany – but warned Europe’s lockdown riots should act as a ‘warning’ and urged people to get their booster jabs.
Professor John Edmund said today that opposition to stringent restrictions on the continent have demonstrated the importance of booster jabs, warning, ‘it is pretty clear immunity does wane’.
‘What you see now in central Europe with these rapid increase in cases, you see the importance of vaccination,’ Mr Edmund told Sky.
But Mr Edmund said the UK was unlikely to be hit by the Christmas chaos because the country ‘is in a slightly different position.’
He added: ‘Frankly here in the UK, we’ve had high rates of infection for many months now so we’re in a slightly different position to Austria and Germany and so on.
‘I don’t think things will quite happen in the same way here as they have done there. But it is a warning to us. I think it’s pretty clear that immunity does wane.
‘I’m sure you do still have some protection from the vaccine but it’s nowhere near as strong as shortly after you’ve been vaccinated. It’s very clear the booster doses do give a very clear boost to your immune system.’
Asked whether the Government should re-introduce control measures, Mr Edmund told Sky: ‘The plan B measures, we could’ve implemented them at any point. It’s a government decision whether to take that step.
‘They have to look at the potential effectiveness and measure that against the potential cost of some of those things.’
Riot police carrying shields and batons were directing groups of people away from the area. Officers on horseback and in police vans patrolled the streets.
Police also cordoned off several scenes to comb for evidence, with a human finger visible on the ground at one of them, the AFP correspondent said.
‘Most of the demonstrators are now gone. There only remain a few groups in a few places,’ police spokesman Jesse Brobbel told AFP.
Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said in a statement that the ‘extreme violence’ against police and fire fighters in Rotterdam was ‘repulsive’.
‘The right to protest is very important in our society but what we saw last night was simply criminal behaviour,’ Grapperhaus said.
Dutch police said units from around the country were brought in to ‘restore order’ to Rotterdam.
‘Dozens of arrests have now been made, it is expected that more arrests will follow. Around seven people have been injured, including on the side of the police,’ a police statement said.
At least one police car was set on fire during the protest, a police spokesman confirmed to AFP. The spokesperson could not confirm the number of people injured.
Several electric scooters and other items were also torched, with several hundred protesters involved in the riots, images on Dutch media and social media showed.
Local authorities issued an emergency order banning people from gathering in the area in a bid to prevent further violence, and the authorities also called on bystanders and people who recorded images of the riots to send the footage to police for further investigation.
Police tweeted that rioters started fires and threw fireworks during the rioting and authorities closed the city’s main railway station.
The several hundred people had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have a ‘corona pass’ showing they have been vaccinated or already recovered from an infection.
The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated, but have proof of a negative test.
‘This is a very serious situation which requires action with the highest priority,’ said the emergency order by the Rotterdam municipality. ‘It is therefore necessary to issue this emergency order so as to maintain public order and to protect the safety of persons.’
Pictured: A burning car and bikes are seen on the streets of Rotterdam on Friday night
Pictured: A torched police car is shown in a still grab from a video on Friday night taken amid riots against Covid measures
Pictured: Still grabs from video shot from a nearby building show fires on the streets of Rotterdam on Friday night amid riots
Covid-19 infections soar in the Czech Republic
Coronavirus infection rates in the Czech Republic have hit a new record for the second time this week, the Health Ministry said.
It announced that the daily tally jumped to 22,936 on Friday, almost 500 more than the previous record set on Tuesday.
The country’s infection rate has risen to 929 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days.
In a worrying sign, 110 people died on Thursday, the ministry said, with the daily death toll surpassing 100 for the first time since April.
The government has approved new restrictions to tackle the surge, targeting the unvaccinated in an effort to increase a vaccination rate that is below the European Union average.
Starting on Monday, most unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed to show negative coronavirus tests in order to attend public events, go to bars and restaurants, visit hairdressers, museums and similar facilities or use hotels.
Only people who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will remain eligible. Overall, the nation of 10.7 million has registered almost two million cases with 32,005 deaths.
Local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam condemned the violence in a tweet. ‘The centre of our beautiful city has this evening transformed into a war zone,’ it said. ‘Rotterdam is a city where you can disagree with things that happen but violence is never, never, the solution.’
Like much of the rest of Europe, the Netherlands has seen Covid cases soar to record levels in recent days, with more than 21,000 new infections reported on Friday.
The latest restrictions were announced on November 12, and sparked clashes between demonstrators and police outside the justice ministry in The Hague.
The restrictions came into force the following day, shuttering bars, restaurants, cafes and supermarkets at 8:00 pm daily, while non-essential shops must shut at 6:00 pm.
People are limited to having four visitors at home and have been advised to work at home unless absolutely necessary. Public events have been scrapped while football matches must be played behind closed doors.
Schools however remain open, and people are allowed to leave their homes without restrictions. The Dutch government has said it will review the situation on December 3.
It is considering excluding the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants, limiting admittance to people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from the disease, but there was significant opposition to the plan during a debate in parliament this week.
The Netherlands suffered its worst riots in four decades in January after a night-time Covid curfew, the country’s first since World War II, came into force.
Earlier Friday, the government banned fireworks on Dec. 31 for the second straight year. The ban is intended ‘to prevent, as much as possible, extra strain on health care, law enforcement and first responders,’ the government said Friday.
The riots in Rotterdam come after Austria said on Friday that it will become the first country in western Europe to reimpose a full Covid-19 lockdown, while neighbouring Germany warned it may follow suit, sending shivers through financial markets worried about the economic fallout.
Restrictions have also been placed on the unvaccinated in Germany – where they have been banned from restaurants – as well as in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Pictured: Riots in Rotterdam on Friday night as seen in a video captured from a nearby building
Pictured: A flare is seen on the streets of Rotterdam near a police car amid clashes between protesters demonstrating against new Covid measures and officers
Pictured: The aftermath of the riots in Rotterdam on Friday night that saw people take to the streets over Covid measures
The situation had largely calmed later but the smoking wreckage of a burned-out police car and dozens of smashed bicycles littered the scene, pictures from Rotterdam on Friday showed
First German states cancel all Christmas markets over virus
The German states of Bavaria and Saxony on Friday cancelled all their Christmas markets and unveiled drastic curbs on public life as the country scrambles to contain soaring coronavirus infections.
‘The situation is very, very serious and difficult,’ Markus Soeder, premier of the southern state of Bavaria, said as he also announced a shutdown of clubs, bars and night service at restaurants.
The eastern state of Saxony unveiled similar measures and went even further by closing all sporting and cultural venues, banning tourism, public consumption of alcohol and barring the unvaccinated from non-essential shops and hairdressers.
Saxony premier Michael Kretschmer – whose state has Germany’s lowest vaccination rate at just under 60 percent of the population – admitted that many of the restrictions would affect the vaccinated as well.
But he said tough action was needed to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed and called for ‘solidarity’ from all citizens. ‘We need more ‘we’ and less ‘I’ in this pandemic,’ he told reporters.
Bavaria and Saxony are among the hardest hit regions in the ferocious fourth Covid wave sweeping Germany.
Reporting by AFP
Following the announcement, Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl posted a picture on Facebook with the inscription: ‘As of today Austria is a dictatorship.’
The party is planning a protest on Saturday, but Kickl cannot attend because he has tested positive for Covid-19 and must self-isolate for 14 days.
Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, accounting for half of global cases and deaths, the WHO said.
A fourth wave of infections has plunged Germany, Europe’s largest economy, into a national emergency, Health Minister Jens Spahn said, warning that vaccinations alone will not cut case numbers.
Both decisions infuriated many in a country where scepticism about state mandates affecting individual freedoms runs high, encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
Asked if Germany could rule out an Austrian-style full lockdown, Spahn said: ‘We are now in a situation – even if this produces a news alert – where we can’t rule anything out. ‘We are in a national emergency,’ he told a news conference.
Looming lockdowns weighed on a range of financial market sectors on Friday, pushing stocks and oil down and boosting the dollar.
‘We expect targeted measures (against COVID-19) across some countries mainly according to the health situation, but other factors, such as domestic political situations, will be relevant,’ Oxford Economics analysts said in a note.
‘And while it might take a while before a political consensus can be reached in other countries, it is clear that the tide has turned.’
As cases rise again, a number of European governments have started to reimpose limits on activity, ranging from Austria’s full lockdown to a partial lockdown in the Netherlands and restrictions on the unvaccinated in parts of Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Niels Van Regenmortel, the intensive care units coordinator at the ZNA Stuivenberg hospital in Antwerp, said there was an increasing risk hospitals in Belgium will have to resort to triage as ICUs fill up amid soaring COVID-19 numbers, calling on the government to restrict night life.
Crowds in some places in Breda, The Netherlands with people going home after the closing of the catering industry in the city. The catering industry has to close at 8pm due to a coronavirus curfew
Pictured: People are seen walking through the streets of Breda in The Netherlands after restaurants and bars closed at 8pm
Pictured: Empty tables are seen in Breda in The Netherlands after restaurants and bars closed at 8pm due to the Covid curfew
This graph shows the number of daily Covid tests carried out per 1,000 people. It also shows that Sweden is carrying out the fewest number of tests. It has told double-vaccinated people not to get swabbed for the virus because they face very little risk from it, although this advice will be reversed from December 1
The above graph shows the proportion of the population that has received two doses of the Covid vaccine by nation. It reveals that Sweden is in the bottom half of countries for vaccine uptake, but ahead of nations including the UK and Germany
Europe has become the epicentre of the pandemic once again, with the World Health Organisation warning that the Continent was the only region in the world where deaths had increased – with Covid-related fatalities spiking by five per cent just this week
What Covid restrictions are in place in Sweden?
The country- which dodged a lockdown unlike most other nations – also has next to no Covid restrictions in place.
It dropped its final measures recommending people to work from home where possible on September 29.
And advice for people to wear face masks on public transport was abandoned on July. Unlike in other countries the coverings were never compulsory.
On November 11 Swedish health authorities went even further telling double-vaccinated people they no longer needed to swab themselves for the virus.
But this move has now been reversed after critics said it left the country in a dangerous position just before winter.
Some travel restrictions are still in place for people coming to the country from non-EU nations and Britain.
All arrivals are required to show a certificate they have been double-vaccinated.
When this is not possible they are asked to show a negative Covid test result from to come to the country from non-EU countries.
All arrivals are also required to prove they up to 48 hours before they travelled.
Sweden will impose further restrictions from December 1 requiring everyone attending events of more than 100 people to show proof they are double-vaccinated.
Officials have warned more Covid restrictions may be needed this winter.
Whether or not countries opt to lock down again depends on a wide range of factors, including vaccination rates, mask mandates and the extent to which booster shots are being made available.
Germany has said further measures will be decided based on when hospitalisation rates hit certain thresholds, while Friday saw its first states – Saxony and Bavaria – cancel all their Christmas markets.
The Bavarian state capital of Munich on Tuesday had become the first major German city to cancel its Christmas market for the second year in a row. Saxony’s cancellations means the famed Dresden Christmas market is also scrapped.
Germany hosts some 2,500 Christmas markets each year, cherished by visitors who come to savour mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, and shop for seasonal trinkets among clusters of wooden chalets.
In pre-pandemic times, they drew about 160 million domestic and international visitors annually who brought in revenues of three to five billion euros ($3.4 billion to $5.6 billion), according to the BSM stallkeepers’ industry association.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron has made it clear he thinks high levels of vaccinations should be enough to avoid future lockdowns.
Britain, with higher numbers of infections than most countries in Europe, is rolling out third shots – or boosters – to offset waning protection from the first two and help keep the economy open.
While the new measures across Europe are not seen hitting the economy as much as the all-out lockdowns of last year, analysts say they could weigh on the recovery in the last quarter, especially if they hurt the retail and hospitality sectors over Christmas.
A full lockdown in Germany would be more serious, however.
‘With Germany … imposing new restrictions, any thoughts that the vaccines would offer a way to a more normal Christmas period appear to have gone up in smoke for now, in Europe at least,’ said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK.
‘Although there is a nagging fear this could ripple out across the region.’ The pressure on intensive care units in Germany has not yet reached its peak, Spahn said, urging people to reduce contacts to help break the wave.
‘How Christmas will turn out, I dare not say. I can only say it’s up to us,’ he added.
Pictured: Police officers check the vaccination status of visitors during a patrol on a Christmas market in Vienna, Austria, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021
Pictured: A sigh that says ‘Please wear a mask’ at Christmas market at Potsdamer Platz on November 19, 2021 in Berlin, Germany
Although Sweden chose not to lock down completely early in the pandemic, it did introduce stricter legally-binding curbs last winter as cases and deaths rose. A couple hug and laugh as they have lunch in a restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden
EU issues advice on using Covid-19 pill for adults
The European Union’s drug regulator has issued advice on using Merck’s COVID-19 pill for adults and began a review of a rival tablet from Pfizer to help member states decide on quick adoption ahead of any formal EU-wide approval.
In two separate statements on Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) detailed efforts to advance use of the experimental but promising options, as infections and COVID-related deaths are rapidly rising in the region and forcing renewed lockdowns.
Merck’s COVID-19 tablet, Lagevrio, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, should be given early and within five days of first symptoms to treat adults who do not need oxygen support and are at risk of their disease worsening.
It advised against treatment during pregnancy and for women who plan to or could get pregnant, while adding that breastfeeding must also be stopped around the time of using the pill, which is to be taken twice a day for five days.
Drugs in the same class as Merck’s Lagevrio have been linked to birth defects in animal studies. The drugmaker, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, has said animal testing shows its pill is safe, but the data have not been made public.
EMA said it was studying available data on the Pfizer pill Paxlovid, days after the drugmaker sought U.S. approval, adding that a more comprehensive rolling review was expected to start ahead of any approval. It did not specify when that review would be.
The EMA last month began a rolling review of the Merck pill and expects to conclude that evaluation by the end of the year.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday Germany will limit large parts of public life in areas where hospitals are becoming dangerously full of COVID-19 patients to those who have either been vaccinated or have recovered from the illness.
‘It’s clear from our experience in England and from what’s happening across Europe that while vaccines do a lot of the heavy lifting … other interventions are required to prevent case numbers rising,’ said Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick.
‘Less mask wearing, more mixing indoors due to colder weather and waning immunity are also contributing to the high case levels across Europe.’
Sweden, meanwhile, has the lowest Covid infection rate in western Europe — after double-vaccinated nationals were told they don’t have to test for the virus even if they get symptoms.
The Scandinavian nation — which was subject to international scrutiny last year when it refused to lockdown — is currently recording 85.4 cases per million people, according to Oxford University research site Our World in Data.
By comparison, the rate is nearly 1,400 per million in Europe’s current Covid capital Austria, which today announced it is going back into a full lockdown from Monday.
Sweden’s infection rate is far lower than other Western European countries like the Netherlands (1,048.7), Britain (581), Germany (536), and France (201).
And for the first time in the pandemic, Sweden is recording fewer cases per population size than its Scandinavian neighbours Denmark (655), Norway (351) and Finland (150).
But critics say Sweden has been left ‘in the dark’ over the true extent of its coronavirus wave because the double-vaccinated, equivalent to almost seven in ten people, are not being routinely swabbed.
Last week, Sweden broke ranks with its European neighbours once again and told Swedes they did not have to get tested if they were fully jabbed, even if they had symptoms. Covid swabbing rates plunged 35 per cent last week, compared to a month earlier.
But this week the policy was reversed in response to rising cases on the continent. A fresh wave of Delta is rolling across the continent and putting pressure on hospitals once again, which has forced most in the EU to bring back some form of curbs.
Latest figures show Sweden is only carrying out 1.26 tests per 1,000 people, which is also the lowest number in western Europe.
The threat of fresh lockdowns comes as optimism grows about experimental drugs developed by Pfizer and Merck that cut the chance of hospitalisation and severe illness, more weapons in the world’s fight against the virus.
On Friday, the EU drug regulator said it was reviewing data on Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill to help member states decide on quick adoption ahead of any formal EU-wide approval.
Slovakia has also seen a surge in infections, with 9,171 reported on Friday, its biggest daily tally since the pandemic began. The country of 5.5 million earlier in the week tightened restrictions on people who have not had COVID-19 shots.
With a seven-day incidence of 11,500 new cases per million inhabitants, the country has the worst reported epidemic situation in the world, according to Our World in Data statistics.