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Latest European lockdown restrictions result in widespread protests

New lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in violent protests in several European countries, fuelled both by anger at new restrictions and fears of a declining economy.

As the number of infections reaches new peaks and hospitals and intensive care units fill up, countries including Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain have once again re-introduced restrictions on movement and gatherings.

But the lockdowns are sparking protests from libertarians who see them as an attack on personal freedom and conspiracy theorists who claim the virus is fake, to business owners and independent workers who are worried about their future.

Italy, which was a virus hotspot this spring, has been seeing violent protests for over a week as new restrictions were introduced, including the closure of theatres and cinemas and a 6pm curfew for bars and restaurants. There have been fights between police and protesters in Florence and other major cities, such as Rome and Naples.

In Spain, the government imposed a national night-time curfew and implemented border closures. Vandalism and looting have been reported in some cities. Most recently, 32 people were arrested and 12 injured in Madrid after a protest over the region’s midnight- 6am curfew turned violent.

Berlin, Germany, saw a gathering of 2000 people including far-right activists and ‘anti-vaxxers’ in a rally demanding the end of all virus restrictions. Chancellor Angela Merkel also announced a new “soft lockdown”, only allowing restaurants and bars to offer takeaways.

European officials have said that EU economies, which are already in bad shape since the first lockdown in spring, will face more decline from the second lockdown. Others are arguing that the the restrictions are not as strict as the the first lockdown and many companies are now better at dealing with them.

Key Questions:

  1. Why did the people in Europe protest against the lockdown?

  2. Are those protests justified? Should people protest during a pandemic?

  3. Are lockdowns necessary in dealing with the virus? Why?

  4. What could EU governments learn from other countries in dealing with the pandemic?

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