Anti-blockade protesters march through the Dutch city of Utrecht

Utrecht, Netherlands (Associated Press)-Thousands of people marched peacefully in Utrecht, the Netherlands on Saturday to protest the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

The protesters were holding balloons, umbrellas and banners, including banners that said “This is not right.” Under the watchful eyes of a large number of police, they moved from the park to the city center without incident.

Siebke Koopman said that his demonstration was not just against the Dutch government’s COVID-19 restrictions.

“The privatization of health care and education is involved in international conflicts that have nothing to do with the Netherlands. I think we must have more decision-making power on these matters,” he said. “I think demonstrations are the only way to peacefully express our emotions.”

The Dutch government imposed a partial lockdown three weeks ago and further tightened it a week ago because the COVID-19 infection rate is still the highest since the pandemic began. Among them, all bars, restaurants and other public places, including shops selling non-essential goods, must be closed at 5 pm.

The infection rate in the Netherlands began to decline slightly this week, but it is still close to historical highs.

Soon after the partial blockade was announced last month, a demonstration in the port city of Rotterdam turned into street violence, so intense that the police opened fire on the mob.

At the same time, the Dutch Institute of Public Health said on Saturday that 18 passengers who flew back to the Netherlands from South Africa a week ago tested positive for the omicron variant. The institute previously stated that 14 people tested positive for the new mutation.

On November 26, more than 600 passengers arrived from South Africa. On the same day, the Dutch government banned flights from southern Africa due to concerns about omicron.

Travelers with the new variant have mild or no symptoms.


Associated Press writer Mike Cord is from The Hague.


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