Friday, 07 August, 2020

Berlin protesters rally against virus restrictions

Reuters  FABRIZIO BENSCH Demonstration against the government's restrictions amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Berlin Reuters FABRIZIO BENSCH Demonstration against the government's restrictions amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Berlin
Deanna Wagner | 02 August, 2020, 11:08

Thousands gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest coronavirus restrictions as authorities raise concerns about a rise in new infections.

Police estimated that about 17,000 people attended. The demonstrators were kept apart from counterprotesters, some chanting "Nazis out!" Police then broke up the rally, saying that the organizers were unable to ensure that safety and health regulations were being observed.

Police tweeted they had launched legal proceedings against organizers for not respecting virus hygiene rules.

A total of 955 new infections have been confirmed in the past 24 hours in Germany, the highest in months, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention. The country has had a relatively lower death rate compared to other nations, with just over 9,000 deaths out of around 210,000 infections.

Several counter-protests are expected in different districts of Berlin on Saturday.

Others chanted "we are the second wave".

The demonstration followed a rallying call from Michael Ballweg, an entrepreneur and political outsider who has organised similar rallies in Stuttgart and is running to become that city's mayor.

Officials have been warning against complacency as the number of new COVID-19 cases crept up recently.

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"When they see so many people, so many strangers, congregating in the centre of Berlin, and flouting the rules, they worry very much that there will be a second wave", he said. "But not like this".

Police used bullhorns to chide participants to adhere to social distancing rules and to wear masks, apparently with little success.

Saskia Esken of the Social Democrats, a junior coalition partner in Angela Merkel's government, blasted the demonstrators as "Covidiots".

"No distancing, no mask".

"They are not just endangering our health, they are endangering our success against the pandemic and for the revival of the economy, education and society. Irresponsible!", she wrote on Twitter.

Jan Redmann, regional head of Merkel's Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Brandenburg, also took aim at the marchers.

Demonstrators march during a protest against the government's restrictions amid the CCP virus outbreak, in Berlin on August 1, 2020. "We can no longer allow ourselves these unsafe absurdities", Redmann complained.

The recent protest was largely devoid of the standard safety measures that the government has enforced, with many refusing to wear masks or keep their distance.