Coronavirus: Thousands protest in Germany against restrictions

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Media captionThousands of Germans protested against the virus restrictions

Thousands of people in the German capital Berlin have taken part in a protest against the country’s coronavirus restrictions.

Demonstrators said measures including the wearing of facemasks violated their rights and freedoms.

Police broke up the protest, saying organisers had not respected coronavirus hygiene regulations.

Germany has been less badly affected by the pandemic than some European countries, but cases are rising.

On Friday it recorded more than 900 new cases and seven deaths.

What happened at the protest?

Officials say about 20,000 people attended the Berlin protest on Saturday.

Organisers had declared it a “day of freedom” from months of coronavirus restrictions.

Demonstrators held up banners featuring such slogans as “Corona, false alarm” and “We are being forced to wear a muzzle”.

The BBC’s Damien McGuinness said some participants were from the far right and some were conspiracy theorists who do not believe Covid-19 exists, but others were ordinary people who simply object to the government’s approach to the pandemic.

While the mood at the demonstration was peaceful, hardly anyone was wearing a face-covering or observing the required social distancing, our correspondent reported.

“Our demand is to go back to democracy. Away with these laws that have been imposed on us, away with the masks that make us slaves,” one woman said.

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Few people at the protest wore masks

Police ordered demonstrators to disperse at the end of the afternoon. They said they had launched legal action against organisers for not respecting coronavirus hygiene rules.

Health Minister Jens Spahn criticised people for failing to adhere to regulations, including the 1.5m (5ft) social distancing requirement.

“Yes, demonstrations should be allowed even amid the pandemic. But not like this,” he wrote on Twitter.

Social distancing rules and hygiene requirements apply throughout the country, and people must wear face-coverings in shops and on public transport. Mandatory testing has been introduced for holidaymakers returning from high-risk areas.

Germany has had more than 210,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 9,000 related deaths since the pandemic began.

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