COVID-19: 5 arrested, 8 police officers injured during anti-lockdown protests in London

London: Police in London said Saturday they arrested five people, and eight officers were injured, after disorder at large-scale protests against England’s remaining coronavirus restrictions, the mandatory use of masks and possible introduction of so-called vaccine passports.

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Demonstrators had gathered early afternoon and marched along several major arteries, including the main shopping district Oxford Street, with videos and photos showing thousands in attendance.

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Hundreds then rallied in Hyde Park later following the march, an AFP reporter said, where “small pockets of disorder” broke out, according to London’s Metropolitan Police Service.

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“Eight officers were injured as they worked to disperse crowds in Hyde Park this evening,” it said, adding that missiles including bottles were thrown.

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“Two officers were taken to hospital. Thankfully, they are not believed to be seriously injured.

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“Five people were arrested for offences including assault on police and are now in custody.”

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Lifting restrictions

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Britain began to gradually lift Covid-19 restrictions in March after months of restrictions and a successful mass vaccination campaign.

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Pubs were allowed to serve customers outdoors this month and non-essential shops reopened, but some curbs remain.

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Organisers used various websites and online platform pages to encourage turnout to protest the pandemic measures, despite rules which limit outdoor gatherings to 30 people among them.

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An exception for protests carries requirements including a Covid-19 risk assessment being conducted.

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“Anyone coming into London for a protest must make sure their gathering is lawful, with a risk assessment carried out by the organiser,” the Met had said warned on Twitter.

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Anti-lockdown protests by hundreds or even thousands have occurred sporadically during the pandemic, often resulting in a small number of arrests.

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England’s latest Covid-19 lockdown measures have been in place since early January, after the UK saw a surge in cases.

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45 million doses

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Months of restrictions alongside the successful vaccine rollout – with more than 45 million doses administered – has seen the situation improve.

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Pandemic indicators such as infections, hospitalisations and deaths are at levels not seen since last September.

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Another major easing is due in mid-May, when some indoor socialising can resume, before nearly all restrictions are ended in late June.

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The government is looking at introducing a passport scheme for a variety of settings, including leisure and hospitality as well as foreign travel, to verify if people have been vaccinated or have immunity from the virus.

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Britain has been among the hardest hit in Europe by Covid-19, recording more than 127,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

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