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Police officers stand guard as protesters hold banners during a demonstration against the Belgian government’s restrictions and vaccine passes, in Brussels, Belgium, January 23 2022. Picture: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS
Police officers stand guard as protesters hold banners during a demonstration against the Belgian government’s restrictions and vaccine passes, in Brussels, Belgium, January 23 2022. Picture: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS

Brussels  — Police in Brussels fired water cannon and teargas to disperse protesters near the European Commission’s headquarters on Sunday, after a protest involving about 50,000 people opposing Covid-19 restrictions turned violent.

Though Belgium announced a slight easing of coronavirus restrictions on Friday, despite record infections, the government also said people must have booster shots after five months to maintain the Covid-19 passes which allow them to access bars or cinemas.

The passes, which are mandatory for anyone wishing to enter a restaurant, museum or many other public space, have sparked fierce opposition among some Belgians.

In scenes reminiscent of similar clashes last November, when about 35,000 protesters took part in demonstrations that started peacefully but later turned violent, some streets in the Belgian capital were soon filled with teargas.

Demonstrators clash with police in Brussels, Belgium, January 23 2022. Picture: VALERIA MONGELLI/BLOOMBERG
Demonstrators clash with police in Brussels, Belgium, January 23 2022.  Picture: VALERIA MONGELLI/BLOOMBERG

The building housing the European diplomatic service and a sandwich shop were broken into, a Reuters witness said.

Some protesters let off fireworks as police advanced in force into a nearby park where large groups of demonstrators had gathered, the water cannon surrounded by officers wearing body armour, helmets and carrying riot shields.

Belgium is in the midst of a fifth wave of Covid-19 infections, with the peak not expected for at least a couple of weeks. Some 89% of adults in Belgium are fully vaccinated and 67% have now also received a booster shot.

“I’m angry about the blackmail that the government is doing, mostly for the young people but for everybody, they are really blackmailing that everybody has to go for the vaccine,” Caroline van Landuyt, who said she had been vaccinated against Covid-19, said.

“I was very angry that my children had to have the vaccine. They want to travel, they want to do sports competitions, and they can’t do it without a vaccine, but they did not want to, it’s just blackmail,” she added.

Reuters 

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