German court upholds ban on coronavirus demonstration

A demonstrator holds a sign reading "Merkel has to go democracy has to stay" near the Brandenburger Gate, during a protest against the government's coronavirus disease restrictions, in Berlin last month.
A demonstrator holds a sign reading "Merkel has to go democracy has to stay" near the Brandenburger Gate, during a protest against the government's coronavirus disease restrictions, in Berlin last month.
Image: FABRIZIO BENSCH\Reuters

Germany's highest court upheld on Saturday a ban on a demonstration in the northern city of Bremen planned by opponents of lockdown measures aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Lower courts had already denied permission for the protest, planned for Saturday afternoon, at which 20,000 demonstrators were due to convene in the city centre of Bremen.

Last month, German police unleashed water cannon and pepper spray in an effort to scatter thousands of protesters in Berlin angry about coronavirus restrictions.

Although most Germans accept the latest "lockdown light" to curb the spread of the coronavirus in a second wave, critics say the amendment endangers citizens’ civil rights.

The head of Germany's public health agency said on Thursday that the country's success in dealing with the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in March and April had led many people to doubt the virus's severity or even its existence.

Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI), said this meant many were now failing to take social distancing and quarantine rules seriously enough, leading to the high level of cases Germany is now seeing.

While daily infection numbers are no longer rising as sharply as previously, case numbers have stagnated at a high level, and Germany reported its highest single-day death toll since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday.

On Saturday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 23,318 to 1,153,556, RKI data showed, while the reported death toll rose by 483 to 18,517.

Chancellor Angel Merkel and state leaders agreed on Wednesday to extend restrictive measures, which include keeping restaurants and hotels shut and limiting private gatherings to five people from two households, until Jan. 10.

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