| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

Protesters gather as Germany debates COVID-19 lockdown law

Protesters gathered in Berlin on Wednesday to voice rejection to a law parliament which is set to pass giving the national government power to impose lockdowns on regions with high COVID-19 infection rates to curb a third wave of the pandemic.

Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to draw up the new law, which has drawn criticism from opponents who say it restricts personal freedoms, after some of Germany’s 16 federal states refused to impose stringent measures despite a spike in infections.

The measures include curfews between 10 p.m. (2000 GMT) and 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) and restrictions on private gatherings, sport and shop openings. Schools will shut down and return to online lessons if the virus incidence surpasses 165 cases per 100,000 residents.

Thousands of demonstrators are expected to protest against the law outside the Bundestag parliament building in central Berlin.

In the morning, hundreds of people, some of them not wearing face masks, had already gathered brandishing flags with “peace” and “democracy” written on them and playing music in the sunshine beside the Brandenburg Gate nearby. One placard read: “End scaremongering now”.

Police vans were parked in the street and officers looked on.

German citizens are sensitive to any measures which threaten their freedom due to the country’s Nazi and Communist past, and protests against the new law have been held in the last few weeks in towns across the country.

Germany reported a surge of 24,884 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to around 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.

Nonetheless, in the last few days the 7-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.

  • Reuters