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German police clash with protesters angry at Merkel's Covid-19 plans

  • Published at 12:43 am November 19th, 2020
A general view of a protest against the government's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions,
A general view of a protest against the government's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, while police use water cannons, near the Reichstag, the seat of Germany's lower house of parliament Bundestag, in Berlin, November, 18, 2020 Reuters

Protesters near Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate threw bottles at police and set off smoke bombs, witnesses reported. Riot police detained some protesters while firing volleys of water and urging crowds by loudspeaker to disperse

German police unleashed water cannon yesterday in an effort to scatter thousands of protesters angry over plans to empower Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to enforce restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters near Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate threw bottles at police and set off smoke bombs, witnesses reported. Riot police detained some protesters while firing volleys of water and urging crowds by loudspeaker to disperse.

Demonstrators were fuming about legislation due to be passed by parliament that could allow the federal government to impose curbs on social contact, rules on mask-wearing, drinking alcohol in public, shutting shops and stopping sports events.

Although most Germans accept the latest "lockdown light" to tackle a second wave of the coronavirus, critics say the law gives the national government too much power and endangers citizens' civil rights without the approval of parliament.

Until now, only a few measures have been mandatory and most have been only enforceable at a state or local level. In addition, several restrictions have been overturned by courts.

Protesters were neither keeping the required social distance nor wearing face masks. Some held banners with slogans such as "For Enlightenment. Peace and Freedom" and "Stop the corona pandemic lie". Many people were waving the German flag.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has even compared the move to enhance the powers of Merkel's government with the 1933 Enabling Act that paved the way to Hitler's Nazi dictatorship.

German media reported that far-right radicals were among the protesters who had earlier gathered peacefully, banging saucepans and blowing whistles.

US deaths near 250,000

The coronavirus has killed at least 1,339,130 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT yesterday. That includes 10,724 new deaths, with 590,690 new cases recorded worldwide.

The US has the most new deaths with 1,313, followed by France with 1,219 and Italy with 731.

The US is the worst-affected country with 248,707 deaths, followed by Brazil with 166,699, India with 130,993, Mexico with 99,026 and the United Kingdom with 52,745.

World Health Organization (WHO) data shows the number of new cases in Europe declined last week for the first time in over three months, but deaths in the region continued to climb.

Drug giant Pfizer says final trial results of its vaccine show it is 95% effective. It says no serious side effects were found and that it will apply for emergency use authorisation from US regulators within days.

Stay-at-home orders are issued for South Australia residents in a six-day circuit-breaker lockdown meant to contain a cluster in Adelaide that ended a months-long streak of no infections.

Chinese health officials say two workers in the port city of Tianjin are infected after a number of outbreaks linked to imported frozen food.

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