Netherlands: Covid protest turns violent in The Hague
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Dutch authorities used water canon, dogs and mounted police to stop rioting youths who set fires and threw fireworks in the worst disturbances since a full lockdown led to widespread disorder and more than 500 arrests in January. The latest unrest began on Friday night in Rotterdam, where police opened fire on a crowd that had swelled to hundreds during a protest the city’s mayor said had turned into “an orgy of violence”. Three people believed to be hit by police bullets remained in hospital on Sunday, a statement by the authorities said.
The protests were sparked by opposition to government plans to restrict use of a national corona pass to people who have either recovered from COVID-19 or have been vaccinated, excluding those with a negative test result.
The Netherlands reimposed some lockdown measures on its 17.5 million population last weekend for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of the virus, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
Youths were also angered by a New Year’s Eve firework ban to avoid added pressure on hospitals that have already been forced to scale back care due to a surge in COVID-19 patients.
Some of the most serious confrontations on Saturday night were in The Hague, where five officers were hurt, one of them seriously, a police statement said. Police carried out charges on horseback and arrested 19 people, one of them for throwing a rock through the window of a passing ambulance.
Two Eredivisie league soccer matches, which have been closed to the public under the tougher COVID-19 restrictions, were briefly disrupted on Saturday night as small groups of fans forced their way into the stadiums and threw fireworks.
Another 13 arrests were reported by police in two towns in the southern province of Limburg, while disturbances were also reported in the northern province of Flevoland.
Eight people were detained in the town of Urk, where a COVID-19 testing station was torched earlier this year.
Dutch health authorities said on Wednesday they were running short of COVID-19 tests, as the Netherlands registered more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, the highest since the pandemic began.
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“We are coming up against the maximum of our capacity,” said Jaap Eikelboom, head of COVID-19 operations at the National Public Health Service, in a statement.
The service said it was working to expand test capacity amid a new surge that has caught health authorities and Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government off guard. Around 85 percent of the adult Dutch population is fully vaccinated.
The National Institute for Health (RIVM) on Tuesday reported a record of more than 110,000 new cases in the week ended November 16, an increase of 44 percent from the week before, with the strongest rise among children aged 4-12.
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Hospital admissions are rising and several are curtailing regular care to accommodate COVID-19 patients.
The latest wave began shortly after the government ended social distancing and other measures in September — a decision that has been reversed as cases skyrocket.
Earlier this month Rutte’s government reintroduced masks in stores, and last weekend it reimposed a partial lockdown, including closing bars and restaurants after 8 p.m. But the impact of those measures has not yet been seen in the daily numbers.
Parliament met with Rutte last night to debate whether to restrict access to indoor public venues to people who have a “corona pass” showing they have been vaccinated or already recovered from an infection.
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