Hundreds rally against German COVID-19 lockdown law
BERLIN — Hundreds of people protested in Berlin on Wednesday against a law parliament is set to pass giving the national government power to impose lockdowns on areas with high coronavirus infection rates to curb a third wave of the pandemic.
Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to draw up the law, which has drawn criticism from opponents who argue it curtails personal freedoms after some of Germany’s 16 federal states refused to impose tough measures despite a surge in cases.
The measures include curfews between 10 p.m. (2000 GMT) and 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) and limits on private gatherings, sport, and shop openings. Schools will close and return to online lessons if the virus incidence exceeds 165 cases per 100,000 residents.
Hundreds of protesters, few wearing face masks, gathered in the sunshine beside the Brandenburg Gate, not far from the Bundestag parliament building in central Berlin.
People waved German flags and banners with “peace” and “democracy” written on them and played music. One placard read: “End scaremongering now”. Police vans were parked in the street and officers looked on.
Germans are sensitive to any measures that threaten their freedom due to the country’s Nazi and Communist past, and demonstrations against the new law have been staged in the last few weeks in towns across the country.
Alexander Gauland, the parliamentary head of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, said the government was fighting the pandemic with the wrong measures. “They are stuck in their trenches,” he told the Bundestag debate on the law.
Ralph Brinkhaus, the parliamentary leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said politicians had to balance civil liberties with the need to save lives. “We are in a situation where too many people are dying,” he said.
Germany reported a rise of 24,884 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to nearly 3.19 million. Some 80,634 people have died and doctors have warned that unless action is taken, intensive care units may struggle to cope.
However, in the last few days, the seven-day incidence rate has inched down and is now at 160.1 per 100,000.
The law is due to go to the Bundesrat upper house of parliament on Thursday.
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