By Jack Phillips
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Europe over the weekend to demonstrate against their respective governments’ recent decisions to reimplement COVID-19 rules and mandates following reported increases in cases.
Thousands of peaceful protesters demonstrated in central Brussels on Dec. 19 for the third time against reinforced COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government.
The marchers—some with placards reading “Free Zone,” “I’ve had my fair dose,” and “Enough is enough”—turned out to protest the government’s recent mandates.
The Belgian protest came a day after similar protests in other capitals including Paris and London; nations across Europe have moved to reimpose tougher measures to stem a new wave of COVID-19 infections spurred by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, with the Netherlands leading the way by imposing a nationwide lockdown.
Since the Omicron variant was detected and named late last month, few deaths have been reported, while authorities in South Africa said on Dec. 17 that the hospitalization rate for Omicron is about one-tenth of that of Delta. The UK in the past week has confirmed seven deaths from Omicron.
On Dec. 18, thousands marched through London to voice their displeasure with the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Crowds amassed near Parliament Square against vaccine passports and COVID-19-related rules after reports indicated that further measures were being considered.
Several police officers suffered minor injuries as they attempted to escort a police motorcyclist through the area, according to the Metropolitan Police.
Demonstrations were also reported in Vienna as well as other Austrian cities on Dec. 18. Some carried signs reading “People are locking up people, not the virus,” according to reports. Rallies were also held in the Austrian cities of Klagenfurt, Innsbruck, and Leibnitz—coming weeks before a nationwide vaccine mandate is to take effect in February 2022.
Anti-mandate and anti-lockdown protesters also demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Israel; Paris; and cities across Germany, including Hamburg and Nuremberg.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported over the weekend that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been detected in 89 countries, and COVID-19 cases involving the variant are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days in places, with community transmission and not just infections acquired abroad. The WHO didn’t offer any data on hospitalizations or death rates from the latest strain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.