European nations scramble to get vaccination programmes back on track following suspensions on use of AstraZeneca shot.
Protesters in Germany clashed with police on Saturday over coronavirus measures, with officers using water cannon, pepper spray and batons against people trying to break through police barriers.
Protests against government measures to rein in the pandemic also were reported in several other countries across Europe, including Austria, the UK, Finland, Romania and Switzerland.
More than 20,000 people participated in the protest in the central German city of Kassel, despite a court ban, where there were also confrontations between demonstrators and counter-protesters.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that Germany will have to apply an “emergency brake” and reverse some recent relaxations of restrictions as coronavirus infections accelerate.
Germany’s national disease control centre said new infections were growing exponentially as the more contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom has become dominant in the country.
On Saturday, the Robert Koch Institute reported 16,033 new cases and registered 207 additional deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 74,565 in Germany.
But protesters say the measures such as the closure of non-essential shops, hotels, restaurants and gyms are a threat to their freedom.
In London, demonstrators opposing the UK’s months-long lockdown defied police who warned of potential fines and arrest for violating prohibitions on group meetings.
In Finland, police estimated that about 400 people without masks, packed tightly together, gathered in the capital Helsinki to protest government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions.
In Austria, about 1,000 protesters participated in a demonstration against the government’s virus measures near Vienna’s central train station.
In Switzerland, more than 5,000 protesters met for a silent march in the community of Liestal 15km (9 miles) southeast of the city of Basel, local media reported.
More than 1,000 anti-vaccination protesters took to the streets in Romania’s capital of Bucharest amid a surge of COVID-19 infections there.
The largely mask-less crowd honked horns, waved national flags, and chanted messages such as “Block vaccination,” and “Freedom.” One placard read: “Parents, protect your children! Stop the fear!”