Thousands join protest against coronavirus restrictions in Germany

Thousands of people protested against coronavirus restrictions in the centre of Berlin on what opponents of social distancing rules described as “Freedom Day”.

Some demonstrators held up homemade placards describing the pandemic as a “false alarm” despite more than 211,000 cases and 9,200 deaths in Germany since the start of the outbreak.

Others claimed they were being “forced to wear a muzzle” or chanted: ”We’re here and we’re loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom.”

One protester even showed opposition to a possible vaccine by calling for a reliance on “natural defence” instead.

Police estimated that around 17,000 people attended the demonstration, titled “The End Of The Pandemic – Freedom Day”.

The crowd whistled and cheered as it marched from the Brandenburg Gate through the city’s Tiergarten park.

Lockdown measures have been eased gradually since April but social distancing rules remain in place and people are required to wear masks in public transport and shops.

However officials are concerned about a rise in the infection rate nationwide over the past week, with 955 new cases reported on Friday.

Germany’s public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said there had been many smaller outbreaks linked to family events, leisure activities and workplaces and also people returning from travel abroad.

“The number of new cases reported daily has been increasing since last week,” the RKI said in its update on Saturday.

“This development is very concerning and will continue to be monitored very closely by the RKI. A further worsening of the situation must be avoided.”

The RKI warned that the general public had to be “committed to decreasing transmission” by observing social distancing and hygiene advice and wearing a face mask when necessary.

Additional reporting by agencies.