Anti-Vaccine Protestors Blamed by Government for COVID Cases Doubling in 1 Week

Slovenia's prime minister has blamed a spike in COVID-19 cases in early October on virus protestors who gathered to oppose vaccinations and COVID-19 measures.

On Monday, Slovenia reported 364 new confirmed cases, almost double compared to a week ago, the Slovenia Press Agency said.

Demonstrators on Oct. 5 marched to criticize Slovenia's parliament for COVID containment precautions and the use of COVID-19 passes, which are mandatory to work in all state-run firms. Instead of the passes, citizens can show proof of full vaccination, record that they've recovered from the virus, or provide recent negative PCR results.

Despite the anti-vaccination protests, the country has succeeded in vaccinating about half of its population of 2 million.

During last week's protests, clashes between police and protesters erupted into hours-long crowd frenzy on the streets causing police to use tear gas and water gun force to contain the chaos.

"As a result of irresponsible behavior that was certainly not caused by the police or the government," Slovenia could be forced to reintroduce a lockdown, Slovenia Prime Minister Janez Jansa said, according to the STA news agency.

The Oct. 5 incident was the third confrontation between protestors and police in Ljubljana this month.

Slovenia Protest
Riot police officers stand in a street full of tear gas during a rally against Covid-19 restrictions in Ljubljana on October 5, 2021. ure Makovec/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Jansa defended police actions, accusing the demonstrators of attacking the police.

"Forty police officers were injured, and some rioters were slightly injured," Jansa said of the unrest that erupted on the eve of a major European Union summit in Slovenia in early October. "It is quite clear who was inflicting violence."

Jansa rejected the possibility of spiraling violence in Slovenia as the result of the police actions, saying instead that the nation faces spiraling coronavirus infections from the protesters.

About 25 protesters were detained and several were injured — mostly for inhaling tear gas. An AP video journalist was sprayed by a water cannon and hit in the head with an unknown object during the police intervention.

Slovenia's interior ministry rejected accusations that police used excessive force to curb anti-government protests with water cannons and tear gas on the eve of a major European Union summit in the country.

Interior Minister Ales Hojs said in Brussels that "police did their job very well during Tuesday's intervention" and were "within their jurisdiction." An investigation still has opened into police actions, he added.