By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Tens of thousands of people have marched through the Dutch city of The Hague to express anger about new COVID restrictions that they say further limit freedom in the once tolerant Netherlands.
Sunday’s protest came after the government further extended the use of an obligatory corona pass”, showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test. Since Saturday, the pass is also required in public places such as museums, gyms, and outdoor terraces, following similar measures in bars, restaurants, and festivals.
Face masks were also reintroduced in stores and other public places, but not for sex workers. Masks will remain mandatory in taxis and on public transport.
People are also advised to work at home for at least half of the time. The government next week could decide to broaden the use of the corona pass to the workplace, Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned.
Several Christian politicians and others have expressed concern that the measures will exclude people who refuse to be vaccinated due to their faith or other reasons.
It also led to underground trade: last week, doctor’s assistants in Amsterdam were detained for allegedly selling fake COVID-19 vaccination registrations to dozens of unvaccinated people. The women allegedly were paid 500-1,000 euros ($580-1,160) for a jab certificate.
Despite controversies, Dutch health authorities are introducing “COVID-19 vaccine booster shots,” though 84 percent of the Dutch adult population has already been vaccinated.
The government also wants people to observe social distancing and avoid shaking hands or hugging, and avoid crowded places.
But at Sunday’s protest, thousands of people expressed their outrage equipped with protest signs and banners.
Their march began and ended at the Malieveld in The Hague, a large grass field that has become a significant venue for protests for the Dutch, ranging from students to farmers.
Sunday’s rally was held by “Together for the Netherlands,” a platform of groups opposed to what they see as increasingly authoritarian government policies.
“I prefer to die than to take a vaccine,” said outspoken politician and author Thierry Baudet, the leader of the rightwing Forum for Democracy (FvD) party.
He has also expressed doubts about anti-COVID pills introduced by companies such as Pfizer as an alternative to jabs. He says the drugs will make people more dependent on the already powerful pharmaceutical industry.
Authorities have defended the measures saying more than 1,200 COVID-19 patients were in hospital last week, the most in five months. Critics counter that many patients have other underlying health issues.
Since early last year, some 18,600 deaths in the Netherlands were related to COVID-19 on a population of nearly 17.4 million, according to official estimates. As with regular flu outbreaks, most victims were elderly with pre-existing conditions.
Other European Union member states follow the “Freedom” rallies in the Netherlands amid concern about perceived growing government control over people’s daily lives.
Earlier in neighboring Germany, thousands protested in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia as the state government prepared a new assembly law.
The legislation would increase state surveillance, and critics say it would limit the possibility of protesting in large numbers.
Several other EU member states are reintroducing stricter COVID-19 measures citing a new wave of infections.
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