Belgian police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters in Brussels today after most protesters marched peacefully to protest tightened Covid-19 restrictions designed to counter a surge in coronavirus infections.
Thousands of people gathered to reject the new measures announced on Friday, the third week in a row that the government has tightened its rules as a torrent of new cases strains the country’s health services, depriving people with other life-threatening illnesses of treatment.
Chanting «Freedom! Freedom!» The demonstrators carried banners reading «United for our freedom, our rights and our children» to the headquarters of the European Union. Some also carried signs critical of vaccines and opposed to making vaccination mandatory.
The main crowd at the mostly peaceful rally had already dispersed when about 100 protesters crashed into riot police barriers cordoning off access to the European Commission.
After a brief confrontation with the police, protesters threw trash and other items, including a bicycle, at the police and set off firecrackers and flares.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo announced Friday that day care centers and primary schools will close a week before the holiday, and that children must wear masks from the age of six. Only indoor events with a maximum of 200 people will be allowed.
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The government had previously closed nightclubs, and ordered bars and restaurants to close at 11pm for three weeks. There was speculation that the closing date would be brought forward to 8pm but ministers decided not to.
According to the latest coronavirus numbers, the European country of 11 million appears to have reached a stage of stabilization.
On a weekly average, 17,862 new daily cases were reported in Belgium, an increase of 6% compared to the previous week. The number of hospital admissions increased by 4%. More than 3,700 people are hospitalized with the virus, 821 of whom are in intensive care. More than 27,000 people have died from the virus in Belgium since the outbreak began last year.
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