SYDNEY (Dispatches) – People took to streets in huge rallies against COVID-19 restrictions in several countries around the world as governments move to make vaccination mandatory.
Over 5,500 reports were made to Australia’s police department of Crime Stoppers after violent protests broke out in Sydney on Saturday, the New South Wales (NSW) Police said.
“Police have received more than 5,500 reports from members of the public as they continue to investigate yesterday’s protest under Strike Force Seasoned,” the statement read on Sunday.
Thousands went to Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD) on Saturday to protest against the state’s COVID-19 lockdown regulations and vaccination. Police tried to control the crowds but officers were largely outnumbered.
In Greece, the police said it had deployed water cannons and tear gas to disperse people protesting against mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in the capital Athens.
Some 4,500 protesters gathered in Athens central Omonoia Square on 24 July and then marched toward Syntagma Square, disrupting traffic, the police said in a statement.
About 1,500 demonstrators remained in Syntagma Square and an adjacent street for 40 minutes, “ignoring warnings and calls from the police chief to leave the road to ensure unimpeded traffic.”
“Suddenly, some of those gathered began to throw pieces of marble, stones, flares and Molotov cocktails at police officers ... The police forces began to disperse the crowd with water cannons and limited use of tear gas,” the statement issued on Saturday read.
A total of 25 people were detained in the incident, the police added.
Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, witnessed a similar protest.
Earlier in July, the Greek parliament passed a bill that makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for employees in some specific sectors such as healthcare, sparking a public outcry. Saturday’s demonstrations were the third such event in recent days.
In France, demonstrators held rallies Saturday to protest the compulsory vaccination for certain workers and the mandatory use of a health pass imposed by the French government.
French police deployed teargas and water cannon to clamp down on protesters taking part in the mass rallies against restrictions in restaurants and other public spaces for unvaccinated people.
Protesters chanted “Freedom, freedom”, “Big Pharma shackles freedom,” and similar slogans, urging President Emmanuel Macron’s government to set aside the idea of mandatory vaccination.
“Everyone is sovereign in his own body. In no way does a president ... have the right to decide on my individual health,” said one protester in Paris.
Marseille, Lyon and Lille, as well as many towns, also witnessed rallies.
More than 4.14 million people have died of COVID-19 across the globe.
The United States, with more than 33 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 604 thousand deaths, is the worst-hit country followed by India and Brazil.
In terms of COVID deaths, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Britain, Italy, France, Colombia, Argentina and Germany were cited by WHO as other countries that were hit hardest by the pandemic.
More than 3.56 billion vaccine doses have been administered around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
As COVID-19 cases are again on the rise across the EU, countries are adopting new measures and tightening existing restrictions to stem the outbreak.
Despite intensive vaccination programs, the increase in coronavirus case numbers has forced several EU countries to take new measures against the highly transmissible Delta variant.