COVID-19

‘All hell broke loose’: Worldwide Covid riots

Europe is battling a fresh wave of infections and several countries have tightened curbs, with Austria on Friday announcing a national partial lockdown — the most dramatic restrictions in Western Europe for months.Other nations on the continent have resorted to choosing to ban unvaccinated people from venues like restaurants and bars.Some 10,000 people marched in Sydney and there were protests in other major Australian cities against vaccine mandates, which are not universal and have only been 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.Violence marred protests on Friday in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam where police fired warning shots as protesters set fires. Two people were hospitalised with bullet wounds.Thousands gathered Saturday in central Vienna near the Chancellery, responding to a call by the far right FPO party, to denounce the new measures.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 Katarina Gierscher, who travelled for six hours to get to the rally.“The government wants to divide us. We must remain united.” 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 1 February next year.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.“I was hoping that there wouldn’t be a general lockdown,” said Markus Horvath as he prepared to shut from Monday his stall selling wooden jewellery at a Christmas market in Vienna.Christian Edlmayr, selling glass ornaments at another Vienna Christmas market, said he would lose half his yearly revenue.“This will be very, very bad for me,” he said.Under the partial lockdown, only outlets deemed essential will remain open such as supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and post offices.Andreas Schneider, a 31-year-old from Belgium who works as an economist in the Austrian capital, also described the lockdown as a “tragedy”, saying confining just the unvaccinated had been “reasonable” since they had a choice.Other European countries are also reintroducing curbs to fight the virus’s spread.On Friday, the German state of Bavaria cancelled all of its popular Christmas markets this year, and announced a shutdown of clubs, bars and night service at restaurants.“The situation is very, very serious and difficult,” state premier Markus Soeder told a news conference.‘ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE’Organisers cancelled a Dutch protest on Saturday but a few hundred people still gathered in Amsterdam and a similar number marched through the southern city of Breda.The group that cancelled the Amsterdam rally said on Facebook it acted because “last night, all hell broke loose in Rotterdam”.“The riots and extreme violence against police, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are horrifying,” said Dutch security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus.Sport continues to face a turbulent time thanks to the pandemic, with Germany ordering next month’s Ski Jumping World Cup in Klingenthal to be held behind closed doors.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.But Schallenberg said: “Despite months of persuasion, we have not succeeded in convincing enough people to get vaccinated,” and that vaccination is the only “exit ticket” out of the pandemic.There was also arson and looting overnight in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe where a night curfew has been imposed.The French territory of Guadeloupe wasvolatile overnight. “The night was very turbulent,” a police source told AFP, adding that live bullets had been fired at a police car.MORE DEMOS AND RIOTS HIT NETHERLANDSDutch coronavirus demonstrators held fresh rallies on Saturday, a day after 51 people were arrested in an “orgy of violence” in Rotterdam that left two people in hospital with bullet wounds.The Netherlands went back into Western Europe’s first partial lockdown of the winter last Saturday with at least three weeks of curbs, and is now planning to ban unvaccinated people from entering some venues.A few hundred protesters angered at the latest measures gathered in Amsterdam on Saturday and a similar number marched through the southern city of Breda.It followed the Rotterdam unrest where police said they had fired both warning and targeted shots and used water cannon.“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 in a tweet.The rioters came from different parts of the country, they said. Police were still searching for more suspects.“Two rioters were injured when they were hit by a bullet. They are still in the hospital,” the police said, adding that the Dutch national criminal investigation department would probe “whether the injuries were caused by police bullets”.A policeman was also taken to hospital with leg injuries while several other officers were hurt or suffered hearing damage because of large fireworks set off by the rioters, police said.Police had said earlier that they fired several warning shots but that “at one point the situation became so dangerous that officers felt compelled to shoot at targets”.They dismissed rumours on social media that someone had died during the violence in Rotterdam.The city’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb denounced an “orgy of violence”, adding: “The police have felt the need to draw a police weapon in the end to defend themselves.”Switzerland’s health minister insisted new Covid-19 restrictions were not necessary despite daily new cases quadrupling in a month to an all-year high.“We are clearly facing the fifth wave,” Alain Berset told a news conference, adding that the course of the pandemic “will depend on the behaviour of all of us”.Though the virus is spreading particularly among younger people less likely to suffer severe illness from the disease, Mr Berset said the surge in cases was more worrying as “the number of adults who have no immunity is too big”.Around 65 percent of the Swiss population are now fully vaccinated, while a further two percent have had the first dose of a two-jab course.With case rates having shot up since mid-October, the Swiss authorities fear an overload of hospital cases as the winter kicks in.Bern University epidemiologist Christian Althaus called for a return to working from home, free tests and greater mask-wearing indoors, given the surge in cases.“We are not out of the danger zone yet. Given the current situation, we could find ourselves once again in a critical situation by Christmas,” he said.

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