Vaccination rates in most of Western Europe are higher, but levels in Eastern Europe are much lower – from 59 percent in the Czech Republic to 24 percent in Bulgaria.
Belgium is highly vaccinated, at 75 percent, but an increase in the number of cases has led the government to impose stricter restrictions, including more working from home and a wider mandatory mask. That led to a protest in Brussels on Sunday by an estimated 35,000 people near the European Union headquarters. Some protesters threw rocks and set fires, police made more than 40 arrests and three officers were injured.
Alexander de Croo, the prime minister of Belgium, called the violence “absolutely unacceptable”. Like Rutte, he said Belgians were free to protest, but that “the way some protesters behaved had nothing to do with freedom.” He continued: “It had nothing to do with whether vaccination was a good thing or not, this was criminal behavior.”
In Greece, the government said Monday that unvaccinated people would be denied access to indoor spaces, including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms. Vaccination certificates for people over 60 are only valid for seven months, and people must then be given booster shots to maintain validity.
In Slovakia, the country’s prime minister, Eduard Heger, announced a “lockdown for unvaccinated” from Monday. Slovakia and the Czech Republic have banned unvaccinated people from restaurants, pubs, shopping malls, public events and shops, with the exception of shops selling essential goods.
The WHO. Europe’s head, Hans Kluge, earlier this month blamed the region’s problems with insufficient vaccination despite the availability of vaccines, saying the continent could still have half a million deaths by February.
“We need to change our tactics from responding to wave of Covid-19 to preventing them from happening,” he said.