Protests against curfews to limit the spread of Covid-19 in the Netherlands degenerated into police clashes and looting in cities across the country on Sunday, authorities and reports said.
Police used water cannons and dogs in Amsterdam, reported the public television NOS, after hundreds gathered to protest against the curfew that remain until 10 February and is the country’s first since World War II.
In the southern city of Eindhoven, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred, regional television Omroep Brabant reported. According to police, at least 30 people were arrested there.
A number of vehicles were burned and companies at Eindhoven Central Station were also looted, media reports say.
The Dutch railway company NS urged passengers to avoid the Eindhoven station, where it said that train circulation was interrupted due to interventions by nearby rescue services.
Eindhoven Mayor John Jorritsma told reporters that if the country continues “on this path, I think we are on the road to civil war.”
Incidents were also reported in The Hague, Breda, Arnhem, Tilburg, Enschede, Appeldoorn, Venlo and Ruremond.
A test center for Covid-19 was set on fire on Saturday night in the village of Urk in the northern part of the country, local authorities said.
“The fire in a screening center in Urk goes beyond all bounds,” said Minister of Health Hugo de Jonge on Sunday.
Violators from kl. 21:00 to 04:30, which Prime Minister Mark Rutte says is necessary to reduce the number of cases, will be fined 95 euros ($ 115).
Exceptions are possible, especially for people returning from funerals or those who have to work, but provided they present a certificate.
Rutte also announced on Wednesday a ban on flights from the UK, South Africa and South America and a reduction in the number of guests allowed in people’s homes to one, from the previous limit of two.
New variants of the virus have led to deep concern in Europe, especially a more contagious strain that first emerged in the UK.
The Netherlands was already under the toughest measures since the pandemic began, with bars and restaurants closed in October and schools and non-essential shops closed since December.
On Thursday, Dutch lawmakers approved Rutte’s exit plan, but on the condition that it starts half an hour later than the original start time of 20:30.
The move had been criticized by right-wing extremist politician Geert Wilders, who called it “careless” and “disproportionate”.
“I stand here for freedom. I lost it myself, says Wilders, who for several years has been around the clock after receiving death threats.
“I do not accept that we unnecessarily … impose a curfew while there are alternatives.”
Rutte and his cabinet resigned on January 22 due to a scandal involving child tax benefits, but they will continue to rule until the mid-March election.