IN PICTURES: Protests spread across Europe as coronavirus surges create new lockdowns

Tens of thousands of protesters angry at Covid-19 restrictions rallied in cities across Europe on Saturday as several nations reimposed partial lockdowns to fight new surges in infections.

IN PICTURES: Protests spread across Europe as coronavirus surges create new lockdowns
Protestors gather for a demonstration to demand the compliance of basic rights and an end of the restrictive coronavirus measures in Kassel, central Germany, on March 20, 2021.(Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)

The coronavirus, which has killed more than 2.7 million people globally, has been spreading faster recently, with the number of new infections up globally by 14 percent in the last week, according to AFP data.

That has forced governments to impose social distancing and movement restrictions again, even as vaccines are rolled out, with residents across Europe facing fresh and tougher measures.

But populations have grown increasingly weary of the economically painful restrictions, and frustrations spilled over in cities across Europe, with thousands marching in Germany, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland.

Demonstrators in the German city of Kassel held up signs including “End the Lockdown” and “Corona Rebels”, as they participated in a protest attended by activists from both the far-left and the far-right, as well as advocates of conspiracy theories about the pandemic and vaccines.

READ ALSO: ‘We don’t tolerate such attacks’: German police use batons and pepper spray at Covid protest in Kassel

Authorities used water cannon, batons and pepper spray to disperse the Kassel protests, which a Kassel police spokesman said numbered between 15,000 and 20,000 – one of the largest such rallies so far this year.

In Sweden, police disbanded demonstrations against virus restrictions in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö on Saturday.

The current law in Sweden allows a maximum of eight people to gather in one place. But when the demonstrations began at 1pm in the major Swedish cities, police were quick to point out that they were in breach of the law.

There were also anti-restrictions protests across many cities in Europe, including Düsseldorf, Vienna and the Swiss town of Liestal.

In Austria, about 1,000 protesters gathered to protest against the government’s virus measures near the capital’s central train station. Police reproached several protesters who were not wearing masks and gathering close together, news agency APA reported.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: How European countries are faring against ‘third wave’ of Covid infections

Here are this weekend’s protests across Europe in pictures:

A protester holds a placard stating ‘freedom’. Photo: Thomas Johansson / TT
Flowers and candles are placed at the statue of the founding father of Gothenburg, king Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, in Gothenburg’s Gustaf Adolfs torg town square during Saturday’s demonstration against coronavirus restrictions. Photo: Thomas Johansson / TT 

Protesters gather in Malmö, Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson / TT

Protestors take part in a march demanding the compliance of basic rights and an end of the restrictive coronavirus measures in Kassel, central Germany, on Saturday. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
Protestors hold up a banner reading ‘Corona rebels Düsseldorf’ as they take part in a demonstration to demand the compliance of basic rights and an end of the restrictive coronavirus measures in Kassel, central Germany, on March 20, 2021. – Several thousand critics and so-called ‘Querdenker’ from all over Germany were expected to take part in the protest organised by the group ‘Freie Buerger Kassel’. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
A protester wears a mask reading “Mask mandatory, shut your mouth” during a demonstration against the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal, near Basel, on March 20, 2021. – Between 3,000 and 5,000 people, some of them wearing white suits, take part in a ‘silent demonstration’ on March 20, 2021 in Liestal, Northern Switzerland, demanding an end to restrictions designed to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
Protesters dressed in white take part in a demonstration against the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal, near Basel, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
A protester smokes through a personalised mask during a demonstration against the ongoing coronavirus Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal, near Basel. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
Police clear protesters from a square at the end of a demonstration. (Photo by Yann Schreiber / AFP)
Police try to push back protestors who take part in a demonstration. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
Protestors gather for a demonstration in Kassel. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)
Police in riot gear and wearing face masks are pictured at the end of a demonstration in Kassel, central Germany, on March 20, 2021. (Photo by Yann Schreiber / AFP)
A protester wears a placard reading “modern slaves wear masks!” during a demonstration against Covid-19 restrictions in Liestal. (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP)
A protestor wears a face mask with the tag reading ‘monetary fine protection’ in Kassel. (Photo by ARMANDO BABANI / AFP)

Member comments

  1. I for one cannot see how we can continue indefinitely with the policy of trying to control the Covid 19 pandemic as it seems more and more unlikely that the world population will continue to put up with endless lockdowns, masks and an economic disaster going forwards.

    As an observer it seems that the main concern worldwide is the ability of a country’s health system to be able to cope with the number of critical care beds needed when there is a surge.

    If the vaccine fails to cure the problem then it begs the question whether we should not put much more resource into critical care assets now so we can cope with the virus running more freely through the world population.

    I cannot see how the current situation is sustainable for the coming years and so maybe it is time to rethink the future pandemic strategy from scratch rather than blindly continuing as we are ?

    Paul Markland

  2. It’s deeply disturbing to see adults who are so self-centered that they believe that the requirements of social distancing, masks, and lockdown are equivalent to slavery. These protesters need to read about or watch films the Holocaust in Europe or about slavery in the US as well as the practices like lynching during the Jim-Crow era in the US. And before they go out into the streets again, they should consider their impact, and try to imagine the experiences of physicians and nurses who’ve been driven to despair and depression while working the intensive-care units of hospitals around the world. It’s not hard to find their heart-wrenching interviews and articles.

  3. 班农和郭文贵利用了闫丽梦作为一名逃离香港的科研人员的身份,让公众持续关注“COVID-19作为一种生物武器”的说法。与其他在线平台一样,数据存储库和预印服务器为应对COVID-19的国际合作提供了关键基础设施,但由于其联合赋予的合法性,它们也可能被用于虚假信息运动。当公众和一些记者看到这些网站时,他们可能会无意中认为这些内容是经过官方审查或评估的,因此是可靠的科学。当被顶尖科学家、大学和研究所的研究包围时,伪科学尤其具有欺骗性。

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EXPLAINED: What is monkeypox and what is Switzerland doing about it?

Switzerland has reported its first monkeypox patient on Saturday, but with over 80 cases across the world to date, Swiss officials are preparing to handle the eventual increase in the number of infections.

EXPLAINED: What is monkeypox and what is Switzerland doing about it?

The first case so far was detected in Bern in a person who was “exposed to the virus abroad”, according to the statement by cantonal officials, who did not specify in which country the patient could have been infected.

The traveller is receiving outpatient treatment and self-isolating. Close contacts have been informed through contact tracing.

READ MORE: Switzerland confirms first monkeypox case

While Swiss health officials currently assess the risk of contracting monkeypox as low outside rural areas of Central and West Africa, “the epidemiological data is still limited”, said Céline Gardiol, head of the vaccination section at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

“However, it can be assumed that more infections can also occur here, as is the case in other countries”, she added.

What measures are Swiss health authorities taking?

For the time being, “the epidemiological situation is being monitored in cooperation with international health authorities and experts, according to FOPH’s vice-president Linda Nartey.

FOPH is also recommending that the cantons carry out contact tracing in proven cases and isolate those who test positive — all of which has an eerie sense of déjà-vu.

“The cantonal systems are in place and ready to be deployed. Quarantines are not currently planned”.

There is no specific vaccine against monkeypox, tough first- and second-generation smallpox vaccines provided effective protection. But they were discontinued in 1972 when the World Health Organisation declared that the disease was successfully eradicated.

There is now also a third-generation smallpox vaccine that is approved for adults in Europe but not yet in Switzerland, as the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic, has not received any approval request from the manufacturers.

However, Narty said Switzerland is examining the possibility of buying these vaccines.

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox, Affenpocken in German, vaiolo delle scimmie in Italian and variole du singe in French is a zoonotic virus (a virus spread from animals to humans) that most often occurs in areas of tropical rainforest in Central and West Africa.

However, it is occasionally found in other regions, and cases have recently been discovered in Europe, North America, and Australia.

The name monkeypox originates from the initial discovery of the virus in monkeys in a Danish laboratory in 1958, according to WHO. The first human case was identified in a child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970.

Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding. The incubation period of monkeypox is usually from 6 to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days.

People can also be infected through contact with the lesions of the skin, blood, tissues, or excretions of infected animals (mainly rodents) and by handling the meat of sick animals.

The disease is not known to be sexually transmitted. Still, close contact between people during sex can make the transmission of the virus easier.

How contagious and dangerous is monkeypox ?

According to FOPH, immunocompromised people, as well as children and young adults who have become infected seem to have a higher risk of a severe course of the disease, whose symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and chickenpox-like skin rash.

Most people affected by the disease recover within a few weeks.

It takes a close, direct contact with the infected person, for instance by touching skin lesions, to become contaminated. Infectious disease specialist Jan Fehr confirmed that monkeypox virus is not transmitted through air, like coronavirus.

Many of the cases presented are in men who have sexual relations with other men and health authorities have asked for extra care and are studying current cases.

And this brings is to the question that is likely on everyone’s mind right now.

Is monkeypox as contagious as Covid and will there be another pandemic?

“Based on what is known about the virus, one can assume that it is less transmissible than the coronavirus”, Nartey pointed out.

She added that at the moment there is no indication of another pandemic emerging in Switzerland or elsewhere.

However, the evolution of the disease must be closely observed, she said.

“We have to watch the outbreaks and in each case carry out contact tracing immediately to quickly interrupt any transmission chains”.

Tracing became widespread during the Covid pandemic to identify, and quarantine, people who were in contact with an infected person.

READ MORE: Q&A: How will Switzerland’s coronavirus tracing app work?