Aug 8, 2021 - Health

Protests against vaccines, COVID restrictions, span the globe

Police place a face mask on an arrested protester at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on September 5, 2020 during an anti-lockdown rally

Police place a face mask on an arrested protester at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on September 5, 2020 during an anti-lockdown rally. Photo: William West/AFP

Anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests aren't a strictly American phenomenon: Demonstrations have broken out around the world — from Australia to France and Israel to Bulgaria.

Why it matters: As the Delta variant surges, governments are increasingly mandating masks and vaccines for many activities . Vaccines have shown to be incredibly effective in preventing severe illness and death.

More than 100,000 people protested across France last month against the government's push to get residents vaccinated against the virus, per PBS.

  • Banging metal spoons on saucepans, protesters yelled, "freedom" and "Macron, clear off!" near the Louvre Museum. “I will never get vaccinated,” one 53-year-old protester said, per PBS.
  • “A few tens of thousands of people have lost their minds to such an extent that they are capable of saying we live in a dictatorship,” President Emmanuel Macron said.

Thousands of people flocked to the streets of Sydney and other Australian cities last month to protest lockdown restrictions, bearing signs that called for "freedom" and "the truth," per NPR.

  • Police arrested several of the Australian protesters, some of whom threw plastic bottles and potted plants at the police officers.
  • “Sydney isn’t immune from morons,” New South Wales Police Minister David Elliott said bluntly.

Several hundred Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv against new coronavirus restrictions as cases have risen to troubling levels, the Guardian reports.

As many as 2,000 protesters gathered in a park in The Hague in the Netherlands, objecting to lock-down measures in March — prompting police intervention using a water cannon, per the BBC.

  • "There might be a virus, but the shutdown of the total society is not proportional," one protester, Michel Koot, 68, said, per the BBC.

In Bulgaria, at least eight protesters were arrested in May 2020 after a demonstration broke out in Sofia, where some protesters said the coronavirus was "fake news" and "an international conspiracy," per Barrons.

And of course, in the U.S., anti-vaccine protesters have shut down vaccination sites, gathered at state capitols and staked out at Disneyland — donning assorted Marvel superhero costumes.

Between the lines: Gabriel Scally, a visiting professor of public health at the University of Bristol, told Al Jazeera that protests against pandemic measures are not necessarily surprising.

  • "I think these rallies are relatively small. All the way through the pandemic, we have seen small groups of people who have taken to the streets to express their opposition to various things,” Scally said.
  • "It isn’t anything new. There has been opposition to vaccines in history. It’s new and people are dealing with various issues. There are always a small group of people who are opposed."
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