Thousands rally in Prague against vaccination mission

Thousands of people marched in the Czech Republic’s capital on Sunday to protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for certain groups and occupations.

Protesters gathered on Wenceslas Square in central Prague, questioning the effectiveness of current vaccines and refusing to vaccinate children, before marching through the capital chanting “freedom, freedom”.

The Prague protests followed similar but smaller demonstrations in several Czech cities on Saturday.

The previous government issued an order in early December making vaccinations mandatory for age groups 60 and over, as well as for medical staff, police, firefighters and medical students.

The order was due to go into effect in March, but could still eventually be overturned.

Prime Minister Andre Babis’ government was replaced later in December by a new five-party government that won parliamentary elections in October, led by Prime Minister Peter Fiala.

The new government opposes the vaccination mandate for the elderly and is ready to scrap it, but does not rule out that it may still be mandatory for some, depending on how the pandemic develops. The government should announce its decision by mid-February.

Health authorities expect a new fast-spreading omicron variant of the novel coronavirus to dominate the country next week.

In the country of 10.7 million people, 6.7 million are considered fully vaccinated, while more than 2.8 million have received booster shots.

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