Police said 51 arrests had been made and officers were among the injured, with units from across the Netherlands dispatched to help restore order. Two people were being treated in hospital on Saturday after they were seriously injured.
The violent unrest on Friday evening was linked to anger among some Dutch citizens at plans by the government to restrict access for unvaccinated people to select venues.
Riot police used water cannon in an attempt to move several hundred rioters from a central street in the city.
Officers issued an emergency ordinance in Rotterdam, shutting down public transport and ordering people to go home.
“The police are present in large numbers and are trying to restore order,” Rotterdam police said. “Maximum deployment of the police is necessary to restore public order. Emergency order is still in force, stay away from Coolsingel.”
Photos in Dutch media showed at least one police car ablaze and another with a bicycle smashed through the windscreen.
Police spokesperson Patricia Wessels told the Reuters news agency: “We fired warning shots and there were also direct shots fired because the situation was life-threatening.
“We know that at least two people were wounded, probably as a result of the warning shots, but we need to investigate the exact causes further.”
Witnesses with video of the riots were urged to submit footage to the police.
The government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country’s coronavirus pass system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19, excluding people who test negative.
A partial lockdown came into force a week ago after the country saw record numbers of infections.
In January, rioting broke out in Rotterdam and other Dutch cities after the government announced a curfew in an attempt to rein in soaring coronavirus infections.
In neighbouring Austria, tens of thousands of people protested in Vienna on Saturday a day after the government announced a new lockdown and said vaccines would be made compulsory next year.
By mid-afternoon, the crowds had swelled to roughly 35,000 people, according to the police, and were marching down Vienna’s inner ring road before heading back towards the Hofburg.
A police spokesman said there had been fewer than 10 arrests, for breaches of coronavirus restrictions and the ban on Nazi symbols.
The virus has seen a resurgence in Europe in recent weeks, leading some countries to bring back restrictions that had been lifted months ago.
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