Dutch, Turkish virus curbs spark protests

·4-min read

People unhappy with coronavirus restrictions have taken to the streets in the Netherlands, Turkey and Greece.

Tens of thousands of people in the Netherlands joined to protest against the curbs on nightlife on Saturday.

Many, including DJs and musicians, called for the lifting of limits on the event industry at a rally held under the banner "Unmute Us".

The organisers called for protests in 10 cities, including Amsterdam, The Hague, Groningen and Maastricht.

In some of the cities, the processions were accompanied by trucks playing music, DJs and demonstrators dancing in the streets, according to ANP news agency.

In the Netherlands, clubs and discos were permitted to reopen at the end of June, when festivals and student parties were also allowed.

However, restrictions were imposed again a short time afterwards when case numbers surged.

The government has now called on an advisory committee to consider whether nightlife might reopen at the end of September.

The closure imposed in mid-August was originally set to remain in place until November 1.

"We need to stand up for the events industry, which has been shut down for a year and a half," the Unmute Us group said on its website, adding this was for the sake of "all 101,000 people who work here and the many visitors.

The organisers said young people in particular were missing festivals, large parties and other events and that the ongoing restrictions were causing many mental health problems.

The government said nothing after the first "Unmute Us" protests that were held on August 21 and drew 70,000 attendees, the organisers said, adding this is why they had set up more demonstrations.

Meanwhile, more than 2000 Turks demonstrated in Istanbul on Saturday against official coronavirus-related mandates including vaccinations, tests and masks, responding to new government measures and an inoculation push.

In Turkey's largest such protest, mostly maskless people shouted slogans, held placards and Turkish flags, and sang songs in defence of what they called individual rights.

"This pandemic is just going on with even more restrictions on our freedoms and there's no end to it," said Erdem Boz, 40, a software developer.

"Masks, vaccines, PCR tests might all become mandatory. We're here to voice our discontent with this."

Some of the demonstrators carried Turkish flags and placards which read "No to fascism".

On Monday the government began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all users of intercity planes, buses and trains, as well as for those attending large events such as concerts or theatre performances.

All unvaccinated school employees are required to take a PCR test twice a week.

Masks and physical distancing are required in public.

About 64 per cent of Turks have received two vaccine shots under a program that has administered more than 100 million jabs.

Still, about 23,000 new cases emerge daily, prompting Health Minister Fahrettin Koca to warn this month of "a pandemic of the unvaccinated".

On Saturday, Koca said on Twitter: "Vaccines are the final solution! Rules are very necessary."

Protesters attending the government-approved rally in Istanbul's Maltepe district were not required to show proof of vaccination nor a negative test, according to Reuters witnesses.

Police did not intervene.

Turkey's top trending Twitter hashtag was: "Maltepe is everywhere, resistance is everywhere".

Greek police fired tear gas and water canon on Saturday to break up a demonstration of thousands of people protesting against mandatory coronavirus vaccinations.

Authorities said protesters hurled flares at police in Greece's second-biggest city of Thessaloniki, who blocked them from trying to reach the area where Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due to deliver his annual economic address.

The annual speech typically attracts crowds of demonstrators, and police estimated more than 15,000 people, including labour unions, took part in the demonstrations on issues ranging from economic policy to COVID-19 vaccines.

Protests against COVID-19 vaccinations began in July after the government announced the mandatory inoculation of health care workers and nursing home staff.

Authorities have suggested vaccines could become obligatory for other groups too, such as teachers.

"Yes to vaccines, but not mandatorily," the federation of public hospital workers, POEDYN, said in a statement.

Greece has suspended nearly 6000 frontline health care workers from their jobs for missing a September 1 deadline to get at least one vaccine shot.

Earlier this month, it offered unvaccinated healthcare workers a second chance to get a shot and allow those who have been suspended to return to work.

POEDYN is worried that a total of 10,000 unvaccinated staff could be suspended, disrupting operations at understaffed hospitals at a time when infections remain high.

with Reuters

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