As the lower house of parliament Bundestag debates additions to the Infection Protection Act, members of the police stand watch as citizens rally against government efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Berlin, Germany, April 21, 2021.
On Wednesday, police clashed with demonstrators in Berlin, attempting to disperse a march against the coronavirus shutdown while parliament discussed a bill giving the national government additional authority to combat a third outbreak of the pandemic.
Chancellor Angela Merkel drafted the legislation after some of Germany’s 16 federal states failed to enact stricter penalties despite an increase in incidents.
Her administration has been chastised for its disorganized treatment of lockdowns and sluggish vaccine drive.
On Twitter, police announced that they would disband the rally because many protesters were not wearing face masks or maintaining a safe distance from one another.
In Berlin, up to 2,200 police were on duty to deal with the riots. Police had to use pepper spray against other protesters who tossed bottles and attempted to climb over walls, and seven people were arrested after they assaulted policemen.
“Peace, democracy, no tyranny!” shouted some demonstrators, all of whom were waving German flags and posters declaring that the coronavirus lockout violates constitutional principles.
Owing to the country’s Nazi and Communist history, Germans are vulnerable to any policies that threaten their rights, and protests against the law have taken place in towns around the country in recent weeks.
The latest legislation allows the national government to enforce curfews between the hours of 10 p.m. (2000 GMT) and 5 a.m. (0300 GMT), as well as restrictions on private meetings, sports, and business hours.
If the virus spreads to more than 165 cases per 100,000 people, schools will close and students will be forced to learn online.
The government is facing the pandemic with the wrong policies, according to Alexander Gauland, parliamentary leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). “They’re trapped in their trenches,” he said after the law’s discussion in the Bundestag.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats’ parliamentary leader, Ralph Brinkhaus, said lawmakers had to strike a balance between civil rights and the need to save lives. He said, “We are in a situation where so many people are dying.”
On Wednesday, Germany announced an increase of 24,884 coronavirus cases, taking the total number of cases to nearly 3.19 million.
About 80,634 patients have died, and physicians have warned that intensive-care units may fail to cope unless action is taken.
The seven-day incident rate, on the other hand, has decreased in recent days, and is now at 160.1 per 100,000.
On Thursday, the bill will be presented to the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament.