Anti-COVID mandate protesters outside the New Zealand parliament sprayed officers with a “stinging substance” and drove a car toward a police line, police said Tuesday. 

The clashes in the capital Wellington came a day after eight demonstrators were arrested for “disorderly behavior and obstruction.”

Police said they were fortunate to escape injury after the person stopped just short of colliding with them. They said three people were arrested for obstructing police and driving in a dangerous manner.

The latest confrontation escalated as 250 officers and staff arrived at dawn and used forklifts to move concrete barriers into a tighter cordon around the convoy camped outside parliament for two weeks.

The sit-in on the lawns outside parliament is inspired by similar protests in Canada. The protesters argue that compulsory vaccination orders violate their basic rights and want the government to withdraw all COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.

New Zealand has mandated certain workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and a vaccine pass is needed to enter places such as restaurants.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that restrictions will be lifted once the peak of the current outbreak fueled by the highly transmissible omicron variant has passed.

Daily case numbers jumped to a record over 2,800 on Tuesday, pushing the caseload to 36,162. The country has reported 56 virus-related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to the Health Ministry, 94% of the eligible population (those aged 12 and over) is fully vaccinated. New Zealand has a population of 5 million.

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