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Five arrested after anti-lockdown demo in Danish capital

Five people were arrested in Copenhagen on Saturday night after demonstrations against the country's coronavirus restrictions turned violent, resulting with a puppet of the Danish Prime Minister being set on fire, police and local media said.

Five arrested after anti-lockdown demo in Danish capital
Demonstrators set fire to a doll representing Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

Around 1000 people had gathered in Copenhagen, according to the Danish newspaper B.T.

Organised by a group calling itself “Men in Black”, the demonstrations targeted restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Protestors shouted “freedom for Denmark” and “we have had enough” according to DR's reporter Caroline Clante.

After a peaceful start, the protest later turned violent. In TV broadcasts and video posted to social media, police in riot gear could be seen clashing with protesters in Copenhagen.

 

The five people have been questioned and released without being brought before a judge, head of security Michael Andersen at the Copenhagen Police said on Sunday morning. Three have been charged with with violence or threats of violence against an official.

During the demonstration, a life-size doll representing Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was hung on a lamppost on Julius Thomsens Plads by Forum in Frederiksberg.

Around the neck of the dull hung a sign saying, 'hun må og skal aflives!” – 'She must and should be killed.'

The puppet was later set on fire, which has sparked outrage among several party leaders and politicians from both wings.

Copenhagen Police said on Sunday morning that the burning of the doll is being investigated and there may be further arrests. 

“We take the matter seriously”, Lars Ole Karlsen told TV 2.

A doll representing Mette Frederiksen was hung up and set fire to. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

On the Facebook event for the demonstration, “Men in Black” had stressed that a peaceful demonstration was expected.

“We lack a long-term plan and strategy! We need to be presented with alternative solutions for a complete lockdown,”the group wrote on the event page.

The demonstration began at Forum Station in Frederiksberg shortly after 6 pm. After this, it continued towards the centre.

At approximately 7.15 pm, the group reached Forum Station, where they remained until the police broke up the protest at around 11pm.

“Men in Black” has previously arranged demonstrations in Aalborg and Copenhagen, which ended with riots and several arrests.

The most recent took place on January 9, when a total of 23 people were arrested and seven people were later remanded in custody.

Also on 19 December, the group arranged a demonstration in Copenhagen. Here, the participants committed extensive vandalism including repainting house walls and shop windows with graffiti.

 

COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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