Sunday, March 21, 2021

Protesters Across Europe Clash With Police Over COVID-19 Lockdowns

People without face masks attend a protest against government restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus in London on Saturday.

Alberto Pezzali/AP

 Anger at restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus pandemic swept into the streets of Europe on Saturday.

German police used water cannons, pepper spray and clubs on protesters rallying over the coronavirus lockdown in the town of Kassel in central Germany where demonstrators numbered some 20,000. Protests against government measures to rein in the pandemic were also reported in Austria, Britain, Finland, Romania and Switzerland.

Germany faces a surge of COVID-19 infections as a more contagious variant of the virus has spread. Experts say it highlights the need to accelerate vaccinations.

But a botched vaccine rollout appears to have deepened distrust against the German government. The suspension of AstraZeneca vaccine was the latest hurdle in Germany's efforts to vaccinate its population of 83 million.

After a three-day pause in using AstraZeneca, Germany is now trying to right the course.

"The motto is 'vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate'," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a meeting with the leaders of the country's 16 states.

NPR's Rob Schmidt reported that "at the start of the pandemic Germany was a global model for how to manage it." But a year into it, the opposite appears to the case. Just 8.5% of Germans received their first shot, as of Friday, far behind other nations including the U.S. and the U.K.

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