ANTI-LOCKDOWN riots erupted today in Belgium as protests sweep across Europe over fears Christmas could be cancelled due to Covid.
Six people were hospitalised including two police officers while 20 were arrested after protests broke out in Brussels.
Cops in Brussels used water cannons and tear gas as 8,000 people descended on the capital in protest at new restrictions introduced on Friday.
Crowds were heard chanting “Freedom! Freedom!” and held placards which read “everyday fascism” emblazoned with yellow stars as they marched towards to EU’s headquarters.
The demonstration turned violent when 100 rioters threw rubbish and other objects, including a bicycle, beer cans, and fire crackers, at police.
The intense public backlash comes after the government tightened restrictions for a third week in a row – forcing kids as young as six to wear face masks and ordering schools to shut a week early.
Belgium – with a population of 11 million – registered a weekly average of 17,862 new daily cases this week: a six per cent rise from last week, with hospital admissions also up four per cent.
Some 800 people are in hospital with severe forms of Covid while 44 people have died in the past seven days.
Protests have also kicked off across European capitals this weekend as the virus returns with a vengeance ahead of Christmas.
More than 2.5million cases have been recorded in the past week alone across Europe – with major surges in France, The Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Germany.
New restrictions are being rolled out across the continent with measures such as heavy fines, mandatory vaccinations and full lockdowns for the unvaccinated.
And it comes as the new Omicron variant looms over the continent, despite WHO saying as of yet no one has died from the “super mutant” strain.
Governments are scrambling to try and control the Covid winter surge which appears to be have dealt a hammer blow to hopes of a normal Christmas.
Pictures from the last few days show large anti-lockdown marches in Austria, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Austrian authorities have imposed lockdown on the unvaccinated and warned anyone who refuses to comply with jab status checks could be fined over £1,000.
Thousands marched through Vienna against the new measures designed to save lives and protect hospitals from being overwhelmed.
Austria was the first domino to fall in imposing new measures in Europe as it saw record case loads at the end of November of over 15,000 each day.
Figures have now dropped to around 7,000 amid the new restrictions.
And meanwhile in Dutch town of Utrecht there was another several thousand strong march to rage against new restrictions.
It is the first major march in the Netherlands against the measures which include new closures of restaurants and bars.
Holland is currently seeing its worst case load since the start of the pandemic.
Cases of around 22,000 are double their previous peaks in last December and this July – and deaths have been steadily creeping up since the end of October.
“We are against having no freedom (to decide what happens to) our own body,” said protester Marit van Hunen.
We should do the maximum to avoid any new health restrictions.
French minister Bruno Le Maire
Protests also erupted in Barcelona, Spain, as marchers spoke out against new Covid certificates required to enter bars, restaurants, gyms and care homes.
Germany also saw protests of people waving “we the people” banners in Frankfurt over their new restrictions – a crackdown on the unvaccinated.
And then in Italy, protesters hit the streets in Turin to speak out against the country’s new coronavirus health pass.
Germany has seen the second highest case load in the world, behind the US, over the past seven days, with 399,339.
Italy meanwhile saw cases creep up from 78,907 to 99,186, while Spain saw infections go from 52,964 to 64,309.
Elsewhere in Europe, France is seeking to avoid a new lockdown or mandatory vaccinations.
However, the country has seen cases rise by 48 per cent in one week – from 193,178 to 286,612.
French minister Bruno Le Maire said: “We should do the maximum to avoid any new health restrictions.”
He warned of the devastating economic impact restrictions or a full lockdown could have over the Christmas season.
Mr Le Maire was speaking as France’s defence council meets tomorrow to consider how to deal with the new wave of Covid.
And he rebuffed suggestions that the threat from the Omicron variant may mean France has to change its strategy, despite it now being detected in nearly 40 countries.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also attempting to weather the storm even as case figures remain high with 312,162 over the last week.
Mr Johnson said Christmas parties should not be cancelled while Tory chief Oliver Dowden urged Brits to go to the pub and insisted people must “keep calm and carry on.”
Experts have warned that Omicron “will become dominant in the UK” especially among the unvaccinated.
Government advisors have suggested the work from home advice should return in a bid to prevent the spread of Omicron as it could spark a new wave of cases.
The government has extended its booster campaign to 18-39 year-olds in order to get on the front foot of Omicron infections and to give Brits as much protection as possible.
Scientists have claimed that a third dose of the jab should be enough to protect Brits from falling seriously unwell from the Omicron variant.