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Thousands protest in Belgium amid tighter COVID-19 restrictions

Roughly 35,000 people took to the streets in Belgium on Sunday to protest tighter COVID-19 restrictions as the country again grapples with a surge of new cases this fall.

Demonstrators set garbage bins on fire, threw objects at police and damaged cars, while police used water cannons and tear gas in response, the Associated Press reported.

People could be heard shouting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”as they held up a variety of signs including the LGBT rainbow flag, one saying “Together for Freedom” and others showing emblems of far-right groups, according to the wire service.

Ilse Vande Keere, a police spokesperson, said that over 40 people were detained and two arrested. Four people were reportedly injured during the demonstrations — one protester and three police officers. 

Belgium’s government announced that it was taking steps to curb the spread of COVID-19, including requiring masks inside for people aged 10 years and older, requiring people to work four out of the five days a week from home and implementing testing at nightclubs, CNBC reported.

Belgium also started requiring health care workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine or risk being suspended.

About three-fourths of Belgium’s population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, per data from Johns Hopkins University. However, the country has still been seeing an uptick in cases.

Last Tuesday, the country came close to reaching an all-time high of daily COVID-19 infections with over 20,000 cases reported. Belgium reported over 22,000 cases in October 2020. 

“It’s not the same virus anymore,” Prime Minister Alexander de Croo told CNBC in an interview last week. “This is a mutation of the virus, which is much more infectious.” 

Tags Belgium Brussels COVID-19

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