Hundreds of people protested in Berlin on Wednesday against a law parliament is set to pass giving the national government power to impose lockdowns on areas with high coronavirus infection rates to curb a third wave of the pandemic.
Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to draw up the law, which has drawn criticism from opponents who argue it curtails personal freedoms, after some of Germany’s 16 federal states refused to impose tough measures despite a surge in cases.
The measures include curfews between 10pm and 5am and limits on private gatherings, sport and shop openings. Schools will close and return to online lessons if the virus incidence exceeds 165 cases per 100,000 residents.
Hundreds of protesters, few wearing face masks, gathered in the sunshine beside the Brandenburg Gate, not far from the Bundestag parliament building in central Berlin.
Alexander Gauland, the parliamentary head of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, said the government was fighting the pandemic with the wrong measures. “They are stuck in their trenches,” he told the Bundestag debate on the law.
Ralph Brinkhaus, the parliamentary leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, said politicians had to balance civil liberties with the need to save lives. “We are in a situation where too many people are dying,” he said.
Germany reported a rise of 24,884 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to nearly 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.