Rioters set fires on the streets of Rotterdam and attacked police officers at a demonstration against Covid measures in the Netherlands on Friday night. Austria was bracing for protests on Saturday, a day after announcing a nationwide lockdown and plan to make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory. And protests were planned in Germany, Italy and Switzerland.
A year and a half after the coronavirus swept through Europe with devastating effect, prompting strict lockdowns, the continent is once again the epicenter of the pandemic. And as governments increasingly return to measures limiting public life and introduce vaccination requirements, protests pushing back against those rules are also rising.
With infections soaring and antiviral drugs to treat the coronavirus not yet available, governments have doubled down on calls for people to get vaccinated, including with booster shots. They have also shifted from voluntary measures to mandatory ones as they lose patience with people who are resisting inoculation.
Frustration among members of the public also appears to be growing on both sides. Although recent anti-vaccine protests have fizzled in countries like France and Italy, they have flared up in the Netherlands, where a three-week partial lockdown is in place in an attempt to quell a fourth wave of coronavirus infections.
On Friday night, police officers in Rotterdam fired warning shots and used water canons against hundreds of protesters who were demonstrating over the country’s pandemic restrictions. Seven people were injured and dozens were arrested amid what the city’s mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, described as “an orgy of violence.”
In Austria’s capital, Vienna, thousands were expected to protest on Saturday over a vaccination mandate that is set to come into force in February and a nationwide lockdown that begins on Monday.
Those actions, which were announced on Friday and would have widely been considered unthinkable just months ago, are the strongest recent measures taken in a Western democracy to tame the pandemic. Austria’s populist Freedom Party, which called for Saturday’s protests, compared them to the type of rules imposed in a dictatorship.
Neighboring Germany, where case numbers have soared in recent weeks, largely among children and teenagers and unvaccinated adults, will also see lockdowns in some of the states with the highest numbers of infection. Already restrictions are in place for the unvaccinated.
As to whether a general lockdown could be reinstated in the country, the acting health minister, Jens Spahn, said on Friday that “nothing should be ruled out.”
Portugal may also face new lockdown restrictions, its prime minister said on Friday, and the Czech Republic, which is facing its highest caseload since the pandemic began, will require proof of vaccination or recent recovery from the virus for entry into restaurants, bars and hair salons starting on Monday.
In the Netherlands, the government has said it wants to introduce a law allowing businesses to exclude unvaccinated people, even if they test negative. Thousands were expected to protest in Dutch cities on Saturday, although a demonstration in Amsterdam was canceled after Friday’s clashes in Rotterdam.
Hundreds of people massed in the heart of Vienna on Saturday, blowing whistles and brandishing signs declaring their freedom in the Austrian capital a day after the country’s leaders announced a nationwide lockdown starting next week and a mandate for vaccines to protect against the coronavirus.
The police in Vienna said that 10 of 11 demonstrations registered for Saturday involved protests over the measures, which are aimed at halting the rampant surge of the coronavirus in the country of nearly nine million people, more than one-third of whom are not vaccinated.
The health authorities reported 15,809 new cases within 24 hours on Saturday, the latest record that is straining Austria’s health system.
Chants of “resistance” went up from the hundreds of people who had packed the streets and the gardens around the Heldenplatz in front of the former Hapsburg palace, at a demonstration promoted by the populist Freedom Party.
“We are all Austrians, regardless of whether we are vaccinated or not vaccinated,” Udo Landbauer, a regional party leader, told the crowd. “We have rights, and we will continue to be loud until we get our basic rights back.”
The Austrian police had urged people to avoid the demonstrations, and 1,300 officers secured the streets as helicopters monitored from above.
Several far-right groups had urged their supporters to travel to Vienna for the demonstrations, a move that raised concerns over possible violence.
Thousands rallied in Melbourne and other Australian cities on Saturday to protest pandemic restrictions and vaccine mandates.
In Melbourne, the capital of Victoria State, protesters gathered outside the state Parliament and marched through the central business district. They waved Australian flags, chanting, “No more mandates” and “Kill the bill.”
It was the latest demonstration after a week of escalating protests over a contentious pandemic powers bill that the state government is seeking to pass within the next month. The bill would replace a state of emergency that is set to lapse on Dec. 15, allowing officials to continue enforcing restrictions related to lockdowns, masking requirements and vaccination mandates.
It would also allow the state government to make new pandemic orders that it determines would help protect public health. The opposition Liberal Party and some legal and rights groups have raised concerns about the bill’s broad scope.
Over the past week, protesters have camped outside Victoria’s Capitol as the government negotiated passage of the bill. Lawmakers who support the bill have reported receiving death threats and being targets of abuse.
The protests on Saturday also targeted vaccination requirements. Although Australia has no broad vaccine mandate, individual states have introduced mandatory vaccination for some workers, including those in construction, education and health care. In Victoria, unvaccinated people are not allowed to eat in restaurants or to visit shops unless they are buying essential goods like food and medicine.
Pro-vaccination campaigners staged a smaller demonstration in Melbourne’s central business district on Saturday. The police kept the two groups apart.
Anti-vaccine crowds also gathered in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, the country’s biggest city.
Among those gathered in Sydney was Craig Kelly, a federal lawmaker who quit the governing Liberal Party this year after facing criticism from Prime Minister Scott Morrison for spreading anti-vaccination misinformation and promoting unproven coronavirus treatments. On Saturday, he addressed thousands of anti-vaccination protesters at a park in Sydney’s central business district.
“When we have governments that adopt vaccine passports, we’re no longer free,” he said. “We don’t live in a free society — we live in a prison camp.”
Singapore said on Saturday that it would begin easing its pandemic restrictions next week, another sign that the city state is recovering from a recent surge of hospitalizations that delayed its reopening plan.
From Monday, fully vaccinated people will be allowed to gather in households and restaurants in groups of up to five, an increase from the current two, government ministers on Singapore’s Covid task force told a news conference.
“We are now transitioning towards living with Covid-19,” the trade minister, Gan Kim Yong, said. “I know many, or some, prefer to open up more quickly, but we must do so in a very careful and step-by-step manner.”
Singapore’s border closures and aggressive Covid testing made it a success story in the early days of the pandemic. It was also among the first countries in Asia to order vaccines. But the country’s pandemic exit plan — incremental and highly regulated even under the best-case scenarios — was delayed for months by a recent surge of cases that overwhelmed the hospital system.
Compared with the United States and European nations, Singapore and many other Asian countries have been much slower to reopen their borders and ease rules on social gatherings.
Singapore’s rules are extreme even by the standards of other Asian countries with high vaccination rates. Only two people may gather together at gyms, malls and public places, including outdoors, for example, even though nearly nine in 10 residents are fully vaccinated.
Singapore officials said on Saturday that they probably would not ease restrictions any further for the rest of the year, because they wanted to limit social gatherings during holiday festivities.
Singapore recorded 1,633 new local cases on Friday, the Health Ministry said, down from the second half of October, when the number of daily local cases rarely dipped below 2,800 and reached a high of 4,650 on Oct. 27.
The burden on Singapore’s health system has fallen over the past month. The intensive care unit utilization rate was 57 percent on Friday, the Health Ministry said, down from about 84 percent on Oct. 25.
Portugal’s government is preparing to add some new restrictions after registering its worst Covid numbers in months.
A rise in infections in the country, which has one of Europe’s highest coronavirus vaccination rates, comes as winter approaches and more people remain indoors, although inoculations have been shown to vastly limit infections and their severity and inoculated people have been protected from hospitalization in intensive-care units and death from the virus.
“The pandemic, unfortunately, is not yet over,” Prime Minister António Costa said on Twitter.
On Friday, Mr. Costa held his first special meeting with the country’s top health experts in two months to discuss introducing new measures. He said the rules would be presented to lawmakers early next week.
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said this past week that it was “evident” that Portugal needed to reinstate a requirement that face masks be worn in outdoor public spaces. Currently, face coverings are compulsory on public transit, in shopping malls and in spaces like concert halls. All bar and restaurant employees are also required to wear masks.
Still, Mr. Costa said recently that his government was not contemplating a return to the state of emergency that was in place at the start of this year, when Lisbon’s hospitals became overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients. Under that status, people were allowed to leave home only in exceptional circumstances and were forbidden to travel outside their municipalities.
Portugal’s Covid infection rate has crept up recently, with 2,371 new cases registered on Friday, although they remain far lower than when the country’s numbers peaked earlier this year. In January, Portugal was registering more than 10,000 cases a day, an acute situation that prompted the government to seek emergency assistance from other countries, including Germany.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday endorsed booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines for all adults, a move that brings tens of millions fully vaccinated people a step closer to a third shot.
Boosters are recommended six months after the second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. With this final step, boosters should be available this weekend, allowing many Americans to get a shot before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The new recommendations say that everyone 50 and older — most of whom have other risk factors — as well as those 18 and older living in long-term care facilities “should” get a booster. Other Americans who are 18 and older “may” opt for one if they wish, based on individual risk and benefit.
Several advisers said at the meeting that they hoped the simpler age-based guidelines would ease some of the confusion around who is eligible for the extra shots.
An advisory committee to the C.D.C. unanimously voted in favor of the booster shots. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director, later formally accepted the recommendation. The recommendations align with President Biden’s promise in August that all adults would be eligible for extra doses.
Desperate to dampen even a dim echo of last winter’s horrors, the administration is betting that booster shots will shore up what some have characterized as waning immunity among the fully vaccinated.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for all adults on Friday, but the C.D.C. generally makes the recommendations followed by the medical profession.
In recent days, several states have broadened booster access to all adults on their own.
Addressing the panelists, Dr. Sam Posner, the acting director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, acknowledged that previous eligibility categories “were complicated to implement” and said he hoped that simplifying them “will reduce confusion.”
After a brief respite, coronavirus infections are inching up again, particularly in parts of the country where cooler weather is hustling people indoors. Research suggests that the shots may help forestall at least some infections, particularly in older adults and those with certain health conditions.
The C.D.C.’s decision lands just as Americans are preparing to spend the holidays with family and friends. Given the tens of millions of Americans who have yet to receive a single dose of vaccine, holiday travel and get-togethers could send cases skyrocketing, as they did last year.
Several European countries are also offering boosters to all adults in a bid to contain fresh waves of infections. France has gone so far as to mandate booster shots for people over age 65 who wish to get a health pass permitting access to public venues.
Noah Weiland and Dan Levin contributed reporting.
Gov. Bill Lee said on Friday that he would not renew Tennessee’s state of emergency, ending measures that he first put in place in response to the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020.
The governor announced the decision in a tweet:
I am not renewing the COVID-19 state of emergency that expires tonight. For almost 20 months, this tool has provided deregulation & operational flexibility for hospitals & industries most affected by COVID’s challenges.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) November 19, 2021
Mr. Lee added that he would consider temporarily reinstating the measures should the state “face any future surges,” but that his administration was “evaluating opportunities for permanent deregulation.”
Recently, cases in Tennessee reached a peak in early September before dropping steeply, but infections have been rising again in recent days.
Mr. Lee, a Republican, has been active in rolling back pandemic restrictions. Last week, he signed a bill into law that prohibited government entities, schools and private businesses in Tennessee from requiring Covid vaccinations or proof of vaccination and limited their ability to impose mask mandates. The law also prohibited health care providers from vaccinating minors without the written consent of a parent or legal guardian.
On Wednesday, the governor made a pitch to law enforcement personnel who were leaving states with “restrictive mandates” to join the Tennessee Highway Patrol, going so far as offering to help pay their moving expenses.
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s drug regulator on Friday recommended the use of a pill, developed by Merck, that was found in a clinical trial to halve the rate of hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk Covid patients who took it soon after infection.
The drug, molnupiravir, has yet to be authorized by E.U. countries, but in recommending its administration, the European Medicines Agency paved the way for its use within the next few months.
Britain became the first country this month to authorize the use of the pill. Its regulator authorized it for vaccinated and unvaccinated people who have Covid and are at high risk of becoming severely ill. The treatment could be authorized in the United States as soon as early December.
The European Medicines Agency said the drug could be taken by adults who do not require supplemental oxygen and who are at increased risk of developing severe coronavirus cases. The pill “should be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis of Covid-19 and within five days of the start of symptoms,” the agency said in a news release.
The agency also said on Friday that it had begun reviewing a similar drug developed by Pfizer, called Paxlovid.
Scientists and government leaders have called the drugs game changers in efforts to end the pandemic if their efficacy in clinical trials holds up in the real world. Unlike monoclonal antibodies, which are typically administered by health care professionals at a hospital or clinic, the pills would be dispensed at pharmacies and taken at home, providing a cheaper and easier way to treat coronavirus infections, including in poorer countries.
Merck has agreed to let other manufacturers make and sell its pill in 105 developing nations, including many where vaccination rates are critically low. It has also licensed eight large Indian drug makers to produce generic and cheaper versions of Merck’s pill.
In the United States, Pfizer applied to the Food and Drug Administration this past week to authorize Paxlovid, and the Biden administration plans to buy a stockpile of the pill that could be administered to as many as 10 million people.
Inside Good Room, a nightclub in Brooklyn, people were dancing to techno and mingling with strangers, while outside, rain poured down on a line of partygoers that snaked down the block. It was Friday night, and the event was sold out.
“It’s nice to know places like this still exist,” said Caitlin Widener, 33, as she stood near the bar, reflecting on what she had missed about Good Room while it was closed for nearly 18 months because of the pandemic.
Things may be somewhat back to normal for its patrons, but the club, which reopened in September, is struggling. Its managers still must pay 18 months of back rent, maintenance and reopening costs, all of which total about $500,000, said Josh Houtkin, Good Room’s booking director.
Good Room is not alone. Many New York City clubs that survived the pandemic are now drawing large crowds but are still plagued by debt and uncertain futures. Many have had to rethink their business models, while others have shut down entirely.
“This industry is crucial to our economic and cultural well-being,” said Ariel Palitz, the senior executive director of New York City’s Office of Nightlife. “It is our backbone of the city, and without its recovery, the city can’t recover either.”