BRUSSELS — Protests against coronavirus restrictions erupted across Europe — including clashes in Rotterdam and massive rallies in Vienna — as authorities announced more-stringent measures in an attempt to control rising cases ahead of the winter holidays.
At least seven people were injured and more than 50 arrested after protests in Rotterdam turned violent late Friday, with protesters throwing stones and police firing shots, according to Dutch police. Demonstrators decried a proposed law that would ban unvaccinated people from entering businesses even if they provide a negative test. They also protested a partial lockdown that went into effect last week and will last until at least Dec. 4, which forces restaurants and other establishments to close at 8 p.m.
In Vienna, tens of thousands of people took to the streets Saturday after the country’s decision to mandate vaccines for everyone starting in February and impose new lockdowns beginning Monday.
In Italy, weekly protests against coronavirus restrictions showed no signs of easing, with demonstrations in Rome, including at the ancient Circus Maximus grounds. On social media, users posted videos from protests in other countries including France and Switzerland.
Ferd Grapperhaus, the Netherlands’ minister of security and justice, called for a “vigorous debate” over pandemic measures but said “harassment and violence do not belong” there.
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb described the clashes as “an orgy of violence” and said “police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves.”
One police officer was hospitalized with a leg injury, and two protesters were struck by bullets. Officials are investigating whether they were hit with police gunfire, according to the Associated Press.
Europe is the world’s only region with coronavirus deaths on the rise, with a 5 percent jump since earlier this month, according to the World Health Organization. In response, authorities are tightening rules for the unvaccinated.
In Berlin, for example, only those who are vaccinated or have recovered from the virus can now go inside bars and restaurants. Greece reimposed some restrictions for unvaccinated people, the AP reported. Belgium mandated that people work from home at least four days a week.
Other protests were held in dozens of cities across Europe. In Belfast, several hundred people gathered outside city hall to oppose vaccine passports. In Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, anti-vaccine marchers waved flags and carried banners denouncing vaccine mandates as violations of personal freedom.
The European Union relies on digital covid certificates to allow people to travel between E.U. countries without quarantining and — in many places — enter restaurants and other sites. The certificate shows if a person is vaccinated, has recently tested negative for the virus or has already recovered from the virus. The European Commission said Friday that the 27-nation bloc has so far issued 660 million certificates.
“The issuance of covid certificates is a very important tool to ensure safe, free movement in the European Union and also a very successful tool,” spokesman Christian Wigand told reporters Friday.