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Coronavirus: Dutch police clash with anti-curfew protesters, arrest over 150

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In this image made from video, a COVID-19 testing center is seen after being set on fire in Urk, 80 kilometres northeast of Amsterdam, Jan. 23, 2021.
In this image made from video, a COVID-19 testing center is seen after being set on fire in Urk, 80 kilometres northeast of Amsterdam, Jan. 23, 2021.   -   Copyright  Pro News via AP
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More than 150 people were arrested in the Netherlands on Sunday after banned protests over the newly-imposed nighttime curfew turned violent.

Police in the southern city of Eindhoven used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowds after rioters pelted officers with rocks and set fires in the city centre. At least 55 people were arrested.

A woman not involved in the protests was hospitalised after being injured by a police horse, police said.

In Amsterdam, the capital, police also deployed a water cannon against protesters gathered in a central park. Video showed officers spraying people grouped against a wall of the Van Gogh Museum.

More than 100 people were arrested, police said in a statement.

The violence came a day after a night-time curfew running from 21:00 to 04:30 came into force. The government said the additional measure — a strict lockdown has been in place since mid-December — was necessary to prevent the spread of more transmissible variants of the novel coronavirus.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus denounced the violence as having "nothing to do with demonstrating against corona(virus) measures."

"This is simply criminal behaviour; people who deliberately target police, riot police, journalists and other aid workers," he said in a statement.

"I make an urgent appeal to everyone in the Netherlands: fight the virus and not each other," he added.

A day earlier, anti-curfew rioters had set fire to a testing facility in Urk, a fishing village located about 80 kilometres northeast of Amsterdam.

The arson against the testing centre was described by Health Minister Hugo de Monge as going "beyond all limits."

"Employees are rightly gutted. Their pivotal work on the forefront of the crisis deserves respect and appreciation," he added.

Police were also "pelted by fireworks, stones, bottles and Molotov cocktails" in Stein, in southeastern Netherlands.

More than 3,600 fines for breaching the curfew were issued on Saturday and 25 people were arrested because they refused to leave or for violence, police said.