Feature: Thousands rally in Berlin against coronavirus 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

On Saturday, protesters marched from the landmark Brandenburg Gate through central Berlin before holding a rally on a wide boulevard, reports Xinhua news agency.

Physical distancing, health and safety rules and wearing protective face masks serve to protect everyone, Spahn said, adding that only "sense, perseverance and team spirit" will help overcome the pandemic.

Few protesters wore a mask or respected the 1.5-meter (five-foot) social distancing requirement, an AFP journalist reported, despite police repeatedly calling on them via megaphone to do so.

They chanted: "We are here and we are noisy, because they are robbing us of our freedom!"

Protesters held up banners featuring such slogans as "Corona, false alarm", "We are being forced to wear a muzzle".

Protests against anti-virus restrictions in Germany have drawn a variety of attendees, including conspiracy theorists and right-wing populists.

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

People came from various parts of Germany for Saturday's protest. Berlin authorities stated on Twitter that the majority of the protesters were not sticking to social distancing guidelines or using masks.

They pleaded with Germans this week to observe the distancing and mask rules and, amid concern about residents bringing home infections from summer trips overseas, introduced free tests for people entering the country. Some of the mask-clad counter-protesters held signs accusing their political opponents of harboring fascist and anti-Semitic views.

Despite the rising number of confirmed infection cases, about 17,000 people turned up here on Saturday rallying against social distancing rules meant to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which was later dispersed by the police.

The rally, which was organised by several groups, including Stuttgart-based "Querdenken 711", comes amid a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Germany. Amid concerns that residents bring infections to homes from summer trips overseas, officials presented free tests for people entering the country.

Germany's national disease control centre registered 955 new cases Friday (local time), a high figure by recent standards.

Social Democrat co-leader Saskia Esken, criticised the protest for putting everyone's lives at danger and called the protestors "covidiots".

"They are not only jeopardizing our health, they are jeopardizing our success against the pandemic and for the revival of the economy, education and society".

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