Police use a water canon during a protest against restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Jan. 24, 2021.
Police use a water canon during a protest against restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Jan. 24, 2021.

Police and protesters in the Netherlands clashed for a third consecutive night Monday after the government imposed a curfew to slow the spread of COVID-19.

At least 150 people were arrested across the country Monday as protests turned to rioting with demonstrators in some areas setting fires, throwing rocks and looting stores.

In the city of Rotterdam, police responded with tear gas and similar scenes played out in Amsterdam, where water cannons were used on rioters. Unrest was reported in smaller municipalities as well, including Haarlem, Geleen and Den Bosch. Officials say 10 police officers were injured in Rotterdam.

The protests began Saturday after the government imposed the first curfew since World War II.  Officials took the action following a warning by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) regarding a new wave of infections due to a more easily transmissible variant strain of the coronavirus, originally identified in Britain.  

But many argued the steps were not necessary as the nation has seen steady overall declines in new infections over the last several weeks.

Monday, Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned what he called the "criminal violence" "What we saw has nothing to do with fighting for freedom. We didn't take all these measures for fun, we did so because we are fighting against the virus and it's the virus which is actually robbing our freedom."

Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.

More than 966,000 confirmed cases and 13,600 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the Netherlands since the start of the pandemic.

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