Protest erupts in Dutch city on first night of new COVID-19 lockdown

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Protests broke out in a northern Dutch city Saturday night as a new coronavirus lockdown imposed amid soaring infections forced bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m.

Dutch broadcaster NOS reported that hundreds of young people gathered in a central square in Leeuwarden, 140 kilometers (85 miles) north of Amsterdam. Video showed them setting off fireworks and holding flares billowing smoke. NOS reported that riot police later moved in to push the protesters off the square.

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Elsewhere in the Netherlands, media reported that bars in the southern city of Breda remained open beyond the new lockdown mandated closing time.

In the central city of Utrecht, student Suzanne van de Weerd wasn't happy with the new restrictions.

“It is very difficult for me to accept” the lockdown, she said. "It is too bad and that’s something that spoils my social life as a student and the way I relax.”

Nearly 85 percent of the Dutch adult population is fully vaccinated, but on Thursday the country’s public health institute recorded 16,364 new positive tests in 24 hours — the highest number of any time during the pandemic that has killed more than 18,600 people in the Netherlands.

Caretaker Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced the partial lockdown Friday and said it would run for at least three weeks, saying his government wants to “deliver a hard blow to the virus.”

The lockdown that began Saturday night is the first to start in Western Europe since a new wave of infections began surging across parts of the continent.

Another student, Kars Ausems, was disappointed the new lockdown came less than two months after the Netherlands largely ended restrictions at the end of September.

“I find it very annoying. Just now when we accustomed to an old way of life we must start all over again with restrictions," he said.

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