THE NEW YORK TIMES, JAN 10, 2021
Cities across Germany braced for major protests against coronavirus restrictions on Monday, and a tough new vaccine requirement came into force in Italy as governments across Europe continued to tighten their rules in a struggle to contain the Omicron variant.
The developments in two nations where cases are rising fast — up 91 percent over the past two weeks in Germany, and more than 300 percent over the same period in Italy — encapsulate the tensions in European countries where leaders are doubling down on Covid vaccinations and boosters, beginning to make them all but mandatory.
More than 69 percent of people in the European Union have been fully vaccinated, according to official data, and the numbers are higher in the western part of the bloc, where Italy has vaccinated 75 percent and Germany 72 percent.
With studies showing that the vaccines provide protection against severe illness and death from Omicron and other variants, governments increasingly see those who remain unvaccinated as an obstacle to avoiding more painful measures, such as reverting to lockdowns.
The challenge was expressed in harsh language last week by President Emmanuel Macron of France,
Macron said in a newspaper interview that he wanted to “piss off” the millions of his compatriots who have declined the shots by barring them from public spaces.
On Saturday, thousands of protesters took to the streets in opposition to a government proposal that would effectively ban unvaccinated people from public areas.
Vaccine skeptics also came out in big numbers in Vienna, where Covid shots will be mandatory for the entire adult population starting next month.
In Germany, where a strident anti-vaccination movement has ties to the far right, social restrictions and rules that shut the unvaccinated out of much of public life have prompted large protests on Mondays …