SEVEN people have been injured after Dutch police opened fire on anti-lockdown rioters who were setting streets ablaze.
Cops said they fired both "warning shots" and directly at protesters who were demonstrating against new lockdown measures in Rotterdam on Friday.
Anti-riot police also fired water cannon to disperse the violent crowd of protesters who began lighting fires and setting off fireworks in one of the port city's main shopping districts.
According to local media reports, at least 20 people were arrested.
The demonstrations comes a week after the Netherlands re-imposed a partial lockdown to curb surging Covid cases in the country.
Videos on social media appear to show a person being shot in Rotterdam – but it's unclear what happened to them.
Police said in a tweet that it was "still unclear how and by whom" the person was allegedly shot.
One eyewitness – a press photographer – told De Telegraaf they saw shell casings "everywhere on the floor".
In a statement, cops confirmed shots were fired but did not elaborate on what type of rounds were used.
Police spokesperson Patricia Wessels said: "We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening.
"We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further."
Other videos showed burn-out police cars and rioters launching fireworks and rocks at cops.
The NL Times reported that a journalist was attacked on the street and local broadcaster Rijnmond said the reporter was beaten and his camera destroyed.
Protesters eventually dispersed leaving smouldering police cars and dozens of smashed bicycles in their wake, the AFP reports.
Photos in Dutch media showed at least one police car ablaze and another with a bicycle smashed through the windshield.
A further clip appears to show a protester fall to the pavement, reportedly after being shot.
Police said in a tweet that rioters started fires and threw fireworks during the rioting and authorities closed the city's main railway station.
Local media say gangs of soccer hooligans were involved in the rioting.
Several hundred people had gathered to voice opposition to government plans to restrict access to indoor venues to people who have a "corona pass", showing they have been vaccinated or already recovered from an infection.
The pass is also available to people who have not been vaccinated, but have proof of a negative test.
Police issued an emergency ordinance in Rotterdam, shutting down public transportation and ordering people to go home.
Water cannon were deployed and police on horseback carried out charges to disperse the crowds, police said.
Last weekend, the Netherlands re-imposed some lockdown measures for an initial three weeks in an effort to slow a resurgence of coronavirus contagion, but daily infections have remained at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic.
The government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country's coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 that would exclude people who test negative.
In January, rioting broke out in Rotterdam and other Dutch cities after the government announced a curfew in an attempt to rein in soaring coronavirus infections.
Earlier Friday, the government banned fireworks on December 31 for the second straight year.
The ban is intended to prevent, as much as possible, extra strain on health care, law enforcement and first responders, the government said Friday.
It comes as Europe could face another Christmas lockdown as cases have exploded across the continent.
World Health Organization said Europe was the only region in the world where Covid-related deaths increased last week, as Belgium's Prime Minister said the continent was on "red alert".
Within Europe, the WHO said that the highest number of cases came from Russia, Germany, and the UK.
German cases are spiralling in what Chancellor Angela Merkel called a "dramatic" fourth wave.
With the country's hospitals on the brink of collapse, a lockdown could soon come into force which would last until December 15.
Merkel has banned unvaccinated Germans from shops and restaurants in draconian Covid restrictions as a string of tougher measures for unjabbed citizens are being enforced – as well as a tiered restrictions system in a bid to tackle the virus.
Meanwhile, Austria is set to plunge back into a nationwide lockdown from Monday as Covid cases soar and hospital corridors fill with dead bodies.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said the lockdown would run for a "maximum of 20 days" and imposed a new vaccine mandate.
From February 1 next year, all Austrians will also be required to have both jabs, Schallenberg announced. Those who refuse could face heavy fines.
Austria registered a whopping 15,145 new Covid cases on Thursday, smashing last November's peak of 9,586 confirmed cases.
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