A protest in Prague against the Czech Republic’s new coronavirus restrictions turned violent on Sunday, as the police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse an unruly crowd about four times larger than currently allowed.
Some 2,000 protesters in the city’s historic center, many of them unmasked, were objecting to measures imposed on Wednesday, including a ban on sporting events.
When representatives of the city’s Town Hall tried to end the event after an hour, the crowd became unruly, and when the police began to try to break the protest up, some in the crowd began throwing bottles, trash bins and flares. The police responded with greater force.
The Czech prime minister, Andrej Babis, tweeted: “I am shocked how inconsiderate and selfish some citizens are, they do not follow the government restrictions and put both themselves and others in harm’s way. I am for a strict recourse.”
The Czech Republic is currently seeing the fastest rise in Covid-19 cases per capita in Europe, according to a New York Times database. On Friday, the health ministry reported the country’s highest number of new daily cases, adding 11,105.
Starting on Wednesday, when the government barred all sporting events, it also closed all schools, with the exception of kindergartens. Restaurants, bars and cafes were also closed, and public gatherings of more than six people were banned, though demonstrations of up to 500 masked people were allowed if they broke into groups of 20.
In a televised speech last week, the health minister, Roman Prymula, said that a steep rise of patients with serious illness was expected and that the death toll was almost certain to rise, too.
“We have three truly complicated and joyless weeks ahead of us,” said the minister.