Tens of thousands of protesters, many from far-right groups, have marched through Vienna after the Austrian government announced a nationwide lockdown from Monday to contain skyrocketing coronavirus infections.
Demonstrations against virus restrictions 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 rioting that erupted in Rotterdam.
Protesters rallied against coronavirus restrictions and mandatory COVID-19 passes required in many European countries to enter restaurants, Christmas markets or sports events, as well as mandatory vaccinations.
The Austrian lockdown comes as average daily deaths have tripled in recent weeks and hospitals in heavily hit states have warned that intensive care units are reaching capacity.
The lockdown will last at least 10 days but could go up to 20, officials said. People will be able to leave their homes only for specific reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor or exercising.
The government also will make vaccinations mandatory starting from February 1.
In neighbouring Switzerland, 2,000 people protested an upcoming referendum on whether to approve the government’s COVID-19 restrictions law, claiming it was discriminatory, public broadcaster SRF reported.
A day after the Rotterdam rioting in the Netherlands, thousands gathered on Amsterdam’s central Dam Square, despite organisers calling off the protest. They walked peacefully through the streets, closely monitored by police.
A few hundred people also marched through the southern Dutch city of Breda. One organiser, Joost Eras, told broadcaster NOS he did not expect violence after consulting with the police.
In Italy, 3,000 people 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, theatres, sports venues and gyms, as well as for long-distance train, bus or ferry travel.
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 on December 13.
In Croatia, thousands gathered in the capital of Zagreb, carrying flags, nationalist and religious symbols, along with banners against vaccination and what they describe as restrictions of people’s freedoms.
In France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin condemned violent protests in the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, one of France’s overseas territories. Darmanin said 29 people had been detained by police overnight. Authorities were sending 200 more police officers to the island and on Tuesday will impose a nightly curfew from 6pm to 5am
Protesters in Guadeloupe blocked roads and set fire to cars, protesting against France’s COVID-19 health pass required for restaurants and cafés, cultural venues, sport arenas and long-distance travel, as well as mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers.