BRUSSELS: Thousands of demonstrators marched through Brussels on Sunday to protest anti-coronavirus rules as the Omicron wave causes infections to reach record highs.
AFP reporters said the sprawling crowd appeared far larger than previous demonstrations that have paraded through the Belgian capital to the seat of the European Union and seen clashes with the police.
Protesters carried signs slamming Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and the Covid Safe pass proving you are vaccinated or have tested negative that is required for entry into numerous venues.
Organisers including the World Wide Demonstration for Freedom and Europeans United for Freedom had called for people to come from other EU states.
Flags from Poland, the Netherland and Romania could be seen in the crowd.
“What has been happening since 2020 has allowed people to wake up to corruption,“ said Francesca Fanara, who had travelled from Lile in northern France,
“I have come to march together.”
“It’s a health dictatorship,“ said Adolfo Barbosa from Portugal.
“It warms the heart to see these people here.”
The protest comes as some governments seek to ease restrictions despite the fast-spreading Omicron variant causing a surge in infections.
The EU's health agency said on Friday that Omicron had now become the dominant variant circulating in the bloc and some neighbouring countries.
Belgium has seen daily infections surge to over 60,000 in the past week in what authorities have called a “tsunami”.
But the milder variant and high rate of vaccination -- including people getting a third booster jab -- means that health systems have not come under the same strain as during earlier waves.
De Croo on Friday announced that restaurants and bars could extend their opening hours -- although nightclubs still remain closed.
Neighbouring France has said it will begin a gradual lifting of Covid restrictions from February 2 after authorities said there were “encouraging signs” that the wave of infections due to the Omicron variant is ebbing. - AFP