Thousands of protesters rallied across Europe this weekend, as nations were moving to impose tougher measures to stem a new wave of COVID-19 infections spurred by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
On Sunday, it was Brussels, where the marchers, some with placards reading “free zone,” “I’ve had my fair dose” and “enough is enough,” came to protest the government’s strong advice to get vaccinated.
The crowd gathered included Belgian health care workers who will have a three-month window in which to get vaccinated against the coronavirus from January 1 or risk losing their jobs.
A strong police presence was deployed on the streets in anticipation of the protest, given how previous demonstrations had descended into violence, arrest, and injury.
In a Brussels demonstration last month, small fringes spiralled into violence as several hundred people started pelting police, smashing cars, and setting garbage bins ablaze. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.
On Saturday, protesters marched in the streets of Paris and other cities throughout France to protest new government restrictions.
A larger-than-usual crowd had people chanting against the vaccine pass that the government was planning, with some carrying signs with freedom slogans or comparing the measures to a “dictatorship”.
The French government proposed requiring proof of vaccination for those entering restaurants, cafes, and other public establishments.
Also, vaccination of children ages 5 through 11 begins on Wednesday – another gripe the protesters voiced during the march.
Nearly 3,000 people are in intensive care with COVID-19 in France.
In London, another demonstration on Saturday resulted in clashes between police and protesters.
Critics of Boris Johnson’s latest coronavirus restrictions flooded Oxford Street, blocking traffic as they marched with signs bearing slogans such as “Vaccine passports kill our freedoms” and “Don’t comply.”
Other signs had the faces of Johnson or UK health secretary Sajid Javid and read, “Give them the boot.”
Protesters against Covid-19 restrictions gathered in Westminster as some clashed with police.
Footage shows demonstrators jostling with a line of officers and scuffles breaking out near Parliament Square.
Scotland Yard said some officers suffered minor injuries when they were attacked by people attempting to stop colleagues escorting a police motorcyclist through crowds that had occupied a road.
Later, beer cans and a flare were hurled at police near Downing Street. In Regent Street, eggs were pelted at the window of a shop near the Apple Store.
The clashes came as Omicron was confirmed as the dominant variant in London, prompting the city’s mayor to declare a “major incident”.
Sadiq Khan underscored the official concern about the climbing cases and their potential to overwhelm the health care system by declaring a major incident, a move that allows local councils in Britain’s capital to coordinate work more closely with emergency services.
Information is essential in a modern society, when the message fails, chaos wins and governments fall.
A study shows that vaccine hesitancy is stronger in Western Europe where populist parties, both left and right, receive more votes (Kennedy study 2017). These common characteristics of the far-right and far-left politics are clearly reflected during the pandemic. Anti-vaccination as a conspiracy theory is a common feature of right-wing while now due to new stricter rules left-wing activists are protesting over the attack on our liberties.
It’s not quite the ‘Horseshoe Theory’, there are elements of the Right-wing pushing the covid agenda but there is also a growing scepticism amongst the Left as we are witnessing an attack on our liberties, when words like mandatory vaccinations are used in place of public consent or Covid passports in place of public responsibility, it is time to ask questions and not go gentle into that good night.
Not everyone is a crank or conspiracist, many see the rules used by governments are overstepping the powers lent to them by the people, powers they are abusing under the cover of Covid.
There is a growing force of people that understand the virus is real, that it has resulted in the premature deaths of a recorded 5.35M people. Some are even double jabbed with the booster, however, they are protesting the attack on civil liberties and the direction new covid rules seem to be taking.
Many of those marching held placards that had been printed by a group called Together, which hosts an online petition against vaccine passports, mandatory vaccinations and the government’s summary introduction of Covid powers that has been signed by more than 167,000 people.
What is clear, based on the information the government have given is that being vaccinated does not stop you from catching or transmitting covid.
Being vaccinated may well increase your life chances if you do catch covid and that in no doubt is a good thing. However, bringing into law such things as Covid passports under any name, will not straighten the curve. In fact, the argument could be made that covid passports will in fact create a false sense of security where people will feel immune, no longer vulnerable and gather on mass, only to be infected and carry the virus to others at home.
Given that same information available from the government, the methods of infection increase indoors with mass gatherings, therefore no amount of Covid Passports will make people immune from contracting the virus, under such circumstances, Covid will only increase, mass gatherings of any sort are going to result in infections.
One thing that is clear to those that guard our liberties, the Covid passports by design or stealth, brings us one step closer to Tony Blairs National ID scheme another boot stamping on our liberties here in the UK, of course for that we can thank Starmer for backing the Tories, yet again.
Other Left-wing MPs had the foresight to see that door opening and what it might entail. Jeremy Corbyn voted against both compulsory vaccines for NHS staff and the introduction of vaccine passports. Tweeting: “Tonight I will oppose both compulsory vaccines for NHS staff, and the introduction of vaccine passports. Both measures are counterproductive and will create division when we need cooperation and unity.”
There seems to be a lack of grown-up thinking within government, if restrictions are needed to ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed, that it keeps functioning, then it is fair to ask why dedicated popup district hospitals were not introduced exclusively for Covid patients, allowing the NHS hospitals to function closer to normal without covid patients, it’s not as if visitors were a concern as we know, no visitors allowed. As for staff, using the same volunteers and the military much like Germany have done would cover the staff issues.
The government is in danger of losing public consent, more and better information is needed if we are to progress to the other side of this crisis
Ministers shouldn’t be talking about forcing people to get jabs, they should be focusing on educating people about vaccinations and supporting people to make informed consent.
Liberty has responded to news that the Government is considering making COVID vaccinations mandatory for care home workers, with the possibility also of rolling the policy out to all NHS staff.
Gracie Bradley, Liberty director, said: “We all want to know that our loved ones are safe – and it is vital people in care homes and those at risk from COVID are protected.
“Ministers shouldn’t be talking about forcing people to get jabs, they should be focusing on educating people about vaccinations and supporting people to make informed consent.
“If vaccinations are made mandatory for care workers, and possibly NHS staff, people may be forced choose between their livelihood and their bodily autonomy. That is unacceptable.
“What’s more these proposals are likely to be counterproductive from a public health perspective, and will damage relationships of trust between employers, patients and key workers.
“The Government must continue to ensure wide access to vaccinations as well as education to support informed consent – but no one should be punished for choosing to stay away.”