Violence erupts at Covid curb protest in Brussels’; 5th Covid wave hitting France at ‘lightning’ speed

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Violence erupts at Covid curb protest in Brussels’; 5th Covid wave hitting France at ‘lightning’ speed

Paris: Fifth-wave coronavirus infections in France are rising at an alarming rate, the government reported on Sunday, with new daily Covid cases close to doubling over the past week.

The seven-day average of new cases reached 17,153 on Saturday, up from 9,458 a week earlier, according to the health authorities, an increase of 81 percent. “The fifth wave is starting at lightning speed,” government spokesman Gabrial Attal told media.

The latest seven-day increase is three times the average rise of cases recorded over the previous three weeks, indicating an exponential acceleration of infections. For now the spike in infections has not led to a massive influx of Covid patients into hospitals, with the authorities attributing the limited number of intensive care patients to France’s high rate of vaccinations which appear highly effective against the most dangerous forms of Covid.

On Saturday, hospitals reported a total of 7,974 Covid patients in their care, with 1,333 of them in intensive treatment. This compares to 6,500 and 1,000, respectively, a month earlier.

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“There is a very strong increase in infections, but we also know that in France we have a very large vaccination cover,” he said. “We seem to be ahead of our neighbours concerning booster shots.”

France’s introduction of a health pass ahead of other countries in the summer was also helping to keep Covid in check, he said. The health pass, required in French restaurants, cafes and many cultural venues, certifies that a person is fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from Covid, or has tested negative for the virus.

The government continues to stand by its choice to “bring the weight of restrictions to bear on non-vaccinated people rather than vaccinated people”, Attal said.Meanwhile, violence broke out at a protest against anti-covid measures in Brussels on Sunday, where police said tens of thousands of people were participating.

The march began peacefully but police later fired water cannon and tear gas in response to a group of participants throwing projectiles, an AFP photographer witnessed.

Several of the demonstrators caught up in the clash wore hoods and carried Flemish nationalist flags. The stand-off with riot police took place near the Belgian capital’s EU and government district. Police said 35,000 protesters marched from the North Station in Brussels against a fresh round of Covid measures announced by the government on Wednesday.

The demonstration, called “Together for Freedom”, largely focused on a ban on the unvaccinated from venues such as restaurants and bars. Europe is battling another wave of infections and several countries have tightened curbs despite high levels of vaccination, especially in the west of the continent.

Belgium, one of the countries hit the hardest by the latest wave, on Wednesday expanded its work-from-home rules and strengthened curbs against the unvaccinated.In a related development, Dutch police said on Sunday they have arrested 19 people over riots in The Hague after the country was rocked by a second night of violence over the government’s coronavirus measures.

Officers in riot gear charged hundreds of demonstrators who set fire to bicycles and an electric moped piled in the middle of a busy intersection on Saturday night. A water cannon put out the blaze. “The police were also pelted with heavy fireworks and stones thrown from roofs,” the Hague police said in a statement.

“Officers made a total of 19 arrests for, among other things, insult.” Riot police in one incident dragged a woman from a passing car after the occupants shouted at police, and put her into a police van, AFP correspondents witnessed.

Five police officers were injured during the unrest while a rock thrown by rioters smashed the window of a passing ambulance carrying a patient, police said. Riots also erupted in the central “Bible Belt” town of Urk and cities in southern Limburg province, while angry fans disrupted two football matches being played behind closed doors because of coronavirus rules, Dutch media said.

On Friday night an “orgy of violence” broke out in the port city of Rotterdam, during which three people were wounded when police opened fire and 51 suspects were arrested. Some of the rioters had links to football hooligans and “groups that often have ties to other forms of organised crime,” Justice and Security Minister Ferd Grapperhaus told public broadcaster NPO.

The Netherlands went back into Western Europe’s first partial lockdown of the winter last Saturday with at least three weeks of curbs, and is now planning to ban unvaccinated people from entering some venues, the so-called 2G option. The country suffered its worst riots in decades in January after the government introduced a coronavirus curfew.

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