More police vigilance after heated corona protests
Police on Sunday promised more vigilance of people angry about Luxembourg’s tougher Covid-fighting regulations after politicians condemned protestors causing damage in the capital city the day before.
“We have to fight this radicalization. Therefore, the police will do everything possible to counteract it," Internal Security Minister Henri Kox said at a news conference on Sunday, during which he also showed understanding for the fact that the nearly two-year-long Covid-19 pandemic has been stressful for everyone.
About 2,000 people took to the streets on Saturday in central Luxembourg against increasing measures limiting social life for the unvaccinated.
Some who reached the scene of a Christmas market on Place de la Constitution – site of the Gëlle Fra, or Golden Lady, war memorial – ripped down metal barriers designed to restrict access to those who pass so-called CovidCheck screening, or stepped over them, police said.
No injuries were reported and there was little damage, but the action caused fear among the festival visitors, which was unacceptable, Kox said: “people were personally molested and they were frightened."
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Similar protests have been taking place for months, but intensified a day after the government announced new measures requiring daily corona tests from workers wanting to come to the office but refusing vaccinations.
While damages were limited - there were reports of a car that had been scratched and paint thrown at a house - politicians were quick to condemn the activists' behaviour. "I cannot and will not accept what happened in the city yesterday," Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said on Twitter.
The requirement for a daily negative Covid test to enter work sites was expected to take effect on 15 January, ministers and unions said on Friday. A mandate closing access to restaurants, cafes and many other leisure facilities for the unvaccinated was expected to take effect as early as next week.
The government increased pressure on the unvaccinated in the face of soaring Covid-19 hospitalisations, mostly among the unvaccinated, and the global spread of a virus variant that could be even more contagious and risks overcoming some of the protections current vaccines offer.
The government's tougher rules are "already bearing fruit," Health Minister Paulette Lenert said during an interview with RTL on Friday. Since the conditions were announced on Monday, appointments for people to get their first vaccination have tripled to about 900 a day, she said.
Though there have been many demonstrations objecting to government restrictions during the pandemic, they had been peaceful before the one on Saturday that was organised through informal networks on social media, said Thierry Fehr, the director of operations for the national police force.
“We can adjust the security arrangements further" in the future, Fehr said.