Thousands rally against Covid curbs in Austria and Australia
Tens of thousands took to the streets in Australia and in several European countries Saturday as anger mounted over fresh Covid restrictions imposed against a resurgent pandemic.
And Dutch police were faced with a second night of rioting Saturday — this time in The Hague — after the previous night’s violence in Rotterdam.
Europe is battling a fresh wave of infections and several countries have tightened curbs, with Austria on Friday announcing a nationwide partial lockdown — the most dramatic restrictions in Western Europe for months.
Other nations on the continent have resorted to less severe restrictions, often choosing to ban unvaccinated people from venues like restaurants and bars.
Some 40,000 came out to protest in Austria, while thousands marched in Croatia’s capital Zagreb.
Several thousand demonstrated across the Netherlands, and around one thousand vented in Denmark’s capital Copenhagen.
In Sydney, some 10,000 marched and there were also protests in other major Australian cities against vaccine mandates applied to certain occupations by state authorities.
“In Australia where a fanatical cult runs our health bureaucracies, they say it’s OK” to vaccinate children, right-wing politician Craig Kelly told the Sydney crowd to large cheers.
– Yellow star stunt –
Thousands gathered Saturday in central Vienna near the Chancellery, responding to a call by the far-right FPO party.
They held up banners decrying “Corona dictatorship” and slamming the “division of society”.
“It’s not normal that the government deprives us of our rights,” said 42-year-old teacher Katarina Gierscher, who travelled for six hours to attend the rally.
Some protesters wore a yellow star reading the words “not vaccinated”, in a nod to the Star of David many Jews were forced to wear during the Nazi era.
Austria’s Interior Minister Karl Nehammer expressed his outrage, saying in a statement that it “insults the millions of victims of the Nazi dictatorship and their families”.
From Monday, 8.9 million 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.
Vaccination against Covid-19 in the Alpine nation will be mandatory from February 1 next year.
In Denmark, around one thousand people protested government plans to reinstate a Covid pass for civil servants going to work.
“Freedom for Denmark,” cried some of the marchers at a rally organized by the radical Men in Black group, who believe Covid is just a “scam”.
Several thousand protesters gathered Saturday in the Dutch capital Amsterdam after a night of rioting in the port city of Rotterdam.
Another thousand or so marched through the southern city of Breda, rejecting government plans to exclude the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants.
“We come in peace”, said one of the organizers, Joost Eras, as around him fellow demonstrators danced behind DJ floats.
On Saturday evening however, Dutch police had to contend with rioting in The Hague. Protesters threw stones and fireworks at police, and set fire to bicycles.
– French skiers ‘delighted’ –
Already on Friday night, violence marred protests in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, where police fired warning shots as protesters set fires. Two people were hospitalized with bullet wounds.
Dutch security minister Ferd Grapperhaus said: “The riots and extreme violence against police, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are horrifying.”
On Saturday, France dispatched dozens of elite forces to its Caribbean island of Guadeloupe after arson and looting overnight in the overseas territory, despite a newly imposed night curfew.
In Iran, the health ministry said Saturday more than half of the population had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as infection and death rates in the country have started to drop.
Winter sports have again been hit by the pandemic. Germany has ordered next month’s Ski Jumping World Cup in Klingenthal to be held behind closed doors.
But it wasn’t all bad.
In France, jubilant skiers hit the slopes as resorts fully opened their doors for the first time in almost two years.
“We’re delighted to be able to get the lifts up and running again and to be able to do our job 100 percent,” rescue worker Emmanuel Laissus told AFP in the Val Thorens resort in the southeast.