Amsterdam: Thousands gather to protest lockdown measures
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Terrifying footage online has captured the moment riot police with batons and shields tried to break up a crowd of several thousand as police dogs tore into protesters. Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema issued an emergency ordinance, empowering police to clear the central Museum Square, after the protesters violated a ban on holding public gatherings during the latest wave of coronavirus infections. The protesters, who mostly did not wear masks and broke social distancing rules, also ignored an order not to hold a march and walked along a main thoroughfare, playing music and holding yellow umbrellas in a sign of opposition to the government measures.
The Netherlands went into a sudden lockdown on December 19, with the government ordering the closure of all but essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places until at least January 14.
Public gatherings of more than two people are prohibited under the current set of restrictions.
Like other European countries, the Netherlands imposed the measures in an effort to prevent a fresh wave of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that could overwhelm an already strained healthcare system.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the sudden shut-down on Saturday evening, ordering the closure of all but the most essential stores, as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places.
Protesters in Amsterdam were mauled by police dogs (Image: GETTY)
Footage online has captured the moment riot police with batons and shields tried to break the crowd (Image: GETTY)
The news came as a shock to many Dutch people as they headed into the Christmas and New Year period.
Many people rushed out on Saturday to stock up on presents and food and to get a last-minute haircut.
Hospitality workers demanded compensation for lost income in the holiday season, while gym owners stressed the importance of exercise during a health crisis.
“Closing all bars and restaurants in such an important month is incredibly painful and dramatic.
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We need compensation and an exit strategy”, the Dutch association for hospitality services said.
All schools will close a week early for the Christmas break on Monday and will remain shut until at least Jauary 9, while households are recommended to receive no more than two visitors and gatherings outside are also limited to a maximum of two.
Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have dropped from record levels in recent weeks after a night-time lockdown was put in place late last month.
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Travel restrictions mapped (Image: EXPRESS)
But cases involving the Omicron variant have increased rapidly since the beginning of December and the strain is expected to become dominant before the end of the year.
This will pose a big problem for hospitals, which have been cancelling regular care for weeks as they try to avoid running out of beds due to the high numbers of COVID-19 patients on their wards.
The government said on Saturday said it would accelerate the administration of booster vaccine shots after a slow start of the campaign, and now aims to deliver extra shots to everyone over the age of 60 before the end of the month.
percent of the Dutch adult population is vaccinated, fewer than 9 percent of adults have so far had a booster shot, one of the lowest rates in Europe.