Thousands protest over Dutch coronavirus restrictions


People protest against new measures to fight a record surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Utrecht, Netherlands, December 4, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

UTRECHT, Netherlands (Reuters) -Several thousand people gathered in the central Dutch town of Utrecht on Saturday to protest against new coronavirus restrictions that came into force last weekend.

Protesters walked through the streets of the town carrying banners saying "Medical Freedom Now!" and waving Dutch flags. A heavy police presence was visible along the route of the march.

Many protesters denounced what they see as increasing pressure from the Dutch government to get vaccinated if they want to participate in regular society.

"We are against having no freedom (to decide what happens to) our own body," Marit van Hunen told Reuters.

It is the first major demonstration in the Netherlands against the measures, which include a nighttime closure of bars, restaurants and most stores to stem a record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases that is threatening to overwhelm the country's healthcare system.

The Netherlands saw violent protests two weeks ago after the government announced plans to ban most people who have not been vaccinated from bars, restaurants and other public places. Those plans face widespread opposition in parliament, including from parties in the governing coalition and have not been put into place yet. [L1N2SD0ZM]

(Reporting Eva Plevier and Hilde Verweij; Writing by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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