Germans protest in thousands against virus curbs
Thousands of people protested in Stuttgart on April 3 against virus restrictions amid a heated debate throughout Germany on tightening the measures in the face of a third wave of COVID-19.
The protesters, few of whom were wearing face masks, marched from the city center to a main square in northeastern Stuttgart.
Police in the southwest city said the marchers ignored requests to don masks and to adhere to social distance rules, though there were no reports of major incidents.
The movement opposing social restrictions, known as "Querdenken (Anticonformist)", has held regular protests in Germany since the start of the pandemic.
It brings together members of the extreme left and far right alongside conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination groups.
On March 20, 15,000-20,000 assembled in the city of Kassel, leading to clashes with police and many arrests.
In Stuttgart, the marchers on April 3 held banners with the slogan "End the dictatorship of COVID".
"The measures are over the top," said Evelyn, one of the demonstrators who called for "an end to the lockdown", adding that she didn’t believe the official figures of COVID cases and deaths.
Fellow marcher Rainer said; "I am against being obliged to have a vaccination".
The protests are happening to the backdrop of a fierce debate in Germany over ratcheting up the COVID restrictions in the face of a surge in infections.
The government is "studying" the possibility of introducing uniform measures across German states "to stop a third wave if the regional measures are insufficient", a spokesman said on April 3.
Chancellor Angela Merkel favours strict measures to contain the virus, with the incidence rate reaching 131 cases per 100,000 people over the past week.
In a recent televised interview she called for the introduction of curfews, which have never been applied at a national level, and threatened to impose stricter measures at a federal level if the regions, which are responsible for health matters, do not take sufficient action.
On Thursday she urged Germans to limit their social contacts over the Easter break.