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Coronavirus: Thousands protest in Germany against restrictions Coronavirus: Thousands protest in Germany against restrictions
(about 7 hours later)
Thousands of people in the German capital Berlin are taking part in a protest against the country's coronavirus restrictions. Thousands of people in the German capital Berlin have taken part in a protest against the country's coronavirus restrictions.
The demonstrators say the measures, including the wearing of facemasks, violate their rights and freedoms. Demonstrators said measures including the wearing of facemasks violated their rights and freedoms.
Germany has been less badly affected by the pandemic than some European countries, but cases are starting to rise again. 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.On Friday it recorded more than 900 new cases and seven deaths.
Official estimates say at least 15,000 people are taking part in the protests, which is being called "The Day of Freedom". What happened at the protest?
Protesters held up banners featuring such slogans as "Corona, false alarm", "We are being forced to wear a muzzle". Officials say about 20,000 people attended the Berlin protest on Saturday.
The BBC's Damian McGuinness in Berlin says some are from the far right and some are conspiracy theorists who do not believe Covid-19 exists, but others are ordinary people who simply object to the government's approach to the pandemic. Organisers had declared it a "day of freedom" from months of coronavirus restrictions.
The mood is peaceful but hardly anyone is wearing a face-covering or observing the required social distancing, our correspondent says. Demonstrators held up banners featuring such slogans as "Corona, false alarm" and "We are being forced to wear a muzzle".
"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," said one woman. 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.
Restrictions in Germany include the wearing of face-coverings in shops and on public transport, social distancing rules and hygiene requirements apply throughout the country. Mandatory testing has been introduced for holidaymakers returning from high-risk areas. 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.
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.Germany has had more than 210,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 9,000 related deaths since the pandemic began.