Thousands protest in Berlin demanding end to Covid restrictions

Berlin, Aug 1 (efe-epa).- Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin on Saturday calling for an end to pandemic restrictions despite rising infection rates in the country.

The march started near the Brandenburg Gate before making its way to the German capital’s Victory Column ahead of a rally on a wide boulevard that runs through the city’s Tiergarten park.

Around 7,000 people took part in the rally, according to regional public television RBB, ranging from shopkeepers unhappy with the restrictions to members of the public who consider the measures an attack on their right to freedom of movement.

It took place amid increasing concern about an upturn in infections in Germany, which has been widely praised for its handling of the crisis.

The country began easing lockdown measures in April but residents still have to wear masks indoors and social-distancing rules also remain in place.

The protest was held under the title End Of The Pandemic — Freedom Day and there was also a notable presence from right-wing populists and conspiracy theorists.

Some banners alluded to conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine, right-wing extremist movements and demanded German Chancellor Angela Merkel be removed from office.

Berlin authorities deployed a strong security presence as they have recently had to deal with leftist marches and large raves which have taken place in the German capital for weeks, sometimes with thousands of participants.

The demonstration came at a time of increasing tensions between Merkel’s federal government and regional authorities over an increase in new infections and whether they were imported cases or local transmissions.

Germany has reported 955 new infections in the last 24 hours, compared with 800 to 850 a week ago and 300 to 350 in mid-June, according to data from public health agency the Robert Koch Institute.

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