Netherlands halts use of AstraZeneca vaccine, says govt

Updated / Sunday, 14 Mar 2021 22:49

Police fired water cannon at demonstrators in The Hague

The Netherlands will suspend the use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine until at least 29 March as a precaution, the Dutch government said tonight.

The move, which follows a similar decision by Ireland earlier in the day, is based on reports from Denmark and Norway of possible serious side effects, the government said.

Three health workers in Norway who had recently received the vaccine were being treated in hospital for bleeding, blood clots and a low count of blood platelets, its health authorities said yesterday.

Earlier, Dutch police used water cannon and officers on horseback to clear anti-government protesters in The Hague.

The police action comes the day before three days of voting starts in national elections.

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied in a park in the centre of the city against Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with some also criticising the coronavirus restrictions his government has put in place.

Officers in riot gear with shields, batons and dogs moved in after some of the protesters refused to leave at the end of the protest.

Police on horseback then charged at the demonstrators.

Police finally fired water cannon but many of the demonstrators sheltered underneath umbrellas from the spray. 

"Today it's mainly because we have elections next week and we don't want the same government again," said Elsvis Vanheenst, 32, who is unemployed, told AFP.

"Because they are lying about everything and they are only working for themselves, and not for the people. So that's mainly why I'm here today."

Police had earlier tried to limit numbers at the protest because of coronavirus restrictions.

The Netherlands goes to the polls on tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday in elections seen as a verdict on Mr Rutte's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Polling has been spaced over three days to ensure social distancing and allow Covid-vulnerable people a chance to vote early.

Mr Rutte and his liberal VVD party are on course to win another term at the head of a coalition government, according to opinion polls.

However, anger at the imposition of the country's first curfew since World War II in January led to the worst riots the Netherlands has seen for decades.