Clashes occur in Brussels as tens of thousands protest against the Covid rules

Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Sunday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Authorities estimate that around 50,000 people marched through the Belgian capital – the largest in a stream of protests in the city in recent months.

Clashes erupted near EU headquarters as police used water cannons and tear gas to repel protesters throwing paving stones and firecrackers.The news agency RTL reported that masked protesters had smashed a glass entrance to the office of the EU foreign policy agency.

The protest comes when the Omicron wave causes infections to reach record levels across Europe.Protesters carried signs blocking Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and the Covid Safe Pass required to enter many places.

Organizers including the World Wide Demonstration for Freedom and Europeans United for Freedom had urged people to come from other EU states.

Flags from Poland, the Netherlands, France and Romania could be seen in the crowd.

Protesters from several EU countries “What has happened since 2020 has made it possible for people to wake up to corruption,” said Francesca Fanara, who traveled from Lille in northern France.

“I have come to march together.””It’s a health dictatorship,” said Adolfo Barbosa of Portugal.”It warms my heart to see these people here.”

The EU health authority said on Friday that Omicron has now become the dominant variant circulating in the bloc and some neighboring countries.

Belgium has seen daily infections rise to over 60,000 in the past week in what authorities have called a “tsunami”.

But the milder variant and high vaccination rate – including people who get a third booster job – means that health systems have not come under the same strain as during previous waves.

De Croo announced on Friday that restaurants and bars could extend their opening hours – even though the nightclubs are still closed.

Neighboring France has said it will begin a gradual lifting of Covid restrictions from February 2 after authorities said there were “encouraging signs” that the wave of infections due to the Omicron variant was waning.

(AFP)

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