Serbian police said 23 people were detained and scores of police officers and demonstrators injured in clashes that erupted after the country’s president announced the return of coronavirus lockdown measures.
Police director Vladimir Rebic told the state RTS television that police are working to identify more people who took part in the rioting in central Belgrade which left 43 police officers and 17 demonstrators injured.
Thousands of people came out into the streets on Tuesday evening after President Aleksandar Vucic announced that a curfew will be imposed for the entire weekend in Belgrade in the wake of Serbia reporting the highest single-day death toll of 13 amid 299 new Covid-19 cases.
Clashes erupted after some supporters of right-wing groups stormed the parliament during protests. Police responded by throwing tear gas.
Mr Vucic has described the virus situation in Belgrade as “alarming”, saying hospitals in Belgrade were full. But many in Serbia blame the populist strongman for lifting the previous lockdown measures just so he would cement his grip on power after parliamentary elections. He has denied those claims.
Mr Rebic said “hooligans” threw rocks, bottles and other objects at police and set five police vehicles on fire. Videos from the scene showed police beating up some of the demonstrators and detaining them.
Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister has said a shutdown of the nation’s second-largest city is necessary and promised continuing financial support for businesses which fear they will not survive a second lockdown.
The Victoria state government said Melbourne and some surrounding areas will lock down for six weeks from Wednesday night because the rate of coronavirus spread is unsustainable.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the federal government’s medical advice agreed with the Victorian government that the move was necessary.
“I hope it isn’t for that long. I hope it’s for a shorter period as possible,” he said.
Mr Morrison said Australia’s seven other states and territories would continue to relax pandemic restrictions.
Victoria authorities announced another 134 cases in the latest 24 hours.
Breaches of infection controls at Melbourne hotels where international travellers are required to isolate for 14 days have been blamed for much of the disease spread. The state government last week responded by banning new arrivals at Melbourne Airport for two weeks.
Mr Morrison said he wanted to reduce the numbers of Australian citizens, permanent residents and foreigners exempt from Australia’s travel ban landing at Australian airports because of the strain on hotel quarantine.
South Korea reported 63 new cases of the coronavirus as health authorities scrambled to stem transmissions tied to places such as churches, temples, restaurants and workplaces.
The figures on Wednesday took the national caseload to 13,244 infections, including 285 deaths.
Twenty-nine of the new cases came from the densely populated Seoul area, which has been at the centre of a virus resurgence since late May. At least 33 cases were linked to international arrivals.
Elsewhere, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said he is confident of swiftly recovering from Covid-19 as he has been treated with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been proven effective against coronavirus.
Mr Bolsonaro said he tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday after months of playing down its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.
He had often appeared in public to shake hands with supporters and mingle with crowds, at times without a mask.