Thousands rally in Croatia against Covid-19 measures

Protesters said their basic rights and freedoms were being restricted

epa08649220 People attend a protest against measures implemented to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, during a so-called Freedom Festival in Zagreb, Croatia, 05 September 2020.  EPA/STRINGER
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Several thousand people rallied on Saturday in the Croatian capital to protest measures imposed by the authorities amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which they say endanger human rights and freedoms.

"Covid is a lie, we are not all covidiots" and "Take off the mask, turn off the TV, live a full life", read some of the banners carried by the demonstrators who descended upon Zagreb's main square.

The rally, dubbed "Festival of Freedom," was aimed at warning against the coronavirus-related restrictive measures which, the organisers say, "limited citizens' basic rights and freedoms" without a "valid medical or legal basis".

"We insist on safeguarding human rights, freedoms, knowledge, solidarity and mutual respect," the group that organised the event said in a statement.

It warned notably against limiting of "socialisation, imposing of psychical distance and deprivation of physical contact".

During the event, whose participants arrived from across Croatia, a popular local pop singer known as a coronavirus anti-vaxxer was playing music while several people addressed the crowd.

On Facebook, Health Minister Vili Beros said of the rally that he could not support a "non-scientific approach to Covid-19".

"All temporary restrictions had only one goal – to protect the health and lives of Croatian citizens. We succeeded in that."

The nation of 4.2 million braved the first few months of the pandemic recording less than 100 cases daily for several months and then almost no new infections by mid-May.

But new cases have spiked since the country opened its borders to tourists for the summer season, hitting more than 200 daily in late August and a record 369 on Thursday.

Since mid-July, wearing of face masks is mandatory on public transport, and in shops and all services involving close contact with clients. Restrictions on the number of people attending public gatherings vary depending on the region.

Croatia has so far reported nearly 12,000 infections and 197 deaths from the respiratory disease.