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Dozens of police injured in Berlin protests

Some 45 police officers were injured in a wave of weekend demonstrations in Berlin including protests against coronavirus restrictions, police said as protesters gathered again in smaller numbers on Sunday.

Dozens of police injured in Berlin protests
Police at an anti-coronavirus measures protest in Berlin. Photo: DPA

The unruly protests, in which many demonstrators failed to wear masks or respect social distancing rules, have sparked a chorus of condemnation including calls for tougher penalties against those who violate restrictions aimed at curbing transmission of the deadly virus.

A total of 133 people were arrested during Saturday's protests, which included a huge “day of freedom” demo against coronavirus restrictions, police said in a statement on Sunday.

The arrests were for offences including resisting police officers, breach of the peace and the use of unconstitutional symbols.

Three officers required hospital treatment, police said. Around 20,000 people took part in the “day of freedom” demonstration, the majority not covering their nose and mouth or respecting Germany's 1.5-metre (five-foot) social distancing requirement.

The crowd, a mixture of hard left and right, and conspiracy theorists, shouted “We are the second wave” as they converged on the Brandenburg Gate, demanding “resistance” and dubbing the pandemic “the biggest conspiracy theory”.

Police began dispersing the crowds in the late afternoon, but hundreds of protesters remained at the Brandenburg Gate late into the evening.

Police have launched legal proceedings against organisers for not respecting virus hygiene rules.

In a separate anti-fascist demonstration in the southern Neukoelln district, protesters threw stones at police officers, let off fireworks and damaged two police vehicles and a local party office.

Several officers were injured while dispersing the crowd, including three who were treated in hospital after being hit in the face by shards of glass. Arrests were also made at smaller unofficial protests.

A total of 1,100 officers were deployed during the day.

'Serious consequences'

A few hundred protesters gathered to the west of the Brandenburg Gate on Sunday, according to an AFP photographer at the scene, with the majority wearing masks and observing social distancing guidelines.

Despite Germany's comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over recent weeks and politicians took to social media to criticise Saturday's rally as irresponsible.

“Yes, demonstrations should also be possible in times of coronavirus, but not like this,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

“Distance, hygiene rules and masks serve to protect us all, so we treat each other with respect.” Others on Sunday expressed concern at Germany's rising virus numbers and called for higher penalties for those who break the rules.

“Those who deliberately endanger others must expect that this will have serious consequences for them,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told national news agency DPA.

Bavarian premier Markus Soeder, meanwhile, warned in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that now was “not the time for new relaxations or naive carelessness”. The second wave is “practically already here”, Soeder said.

“It is creeping through Germany.” Soeder also said he was opposed to football matches with spectators, as officials from Germany's Bundesliga prepare to gather this week to agree guidelines for the return of fans.

Saturday saw 955 new infections in Germany — a level which the country had not seen since May 9, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control agency.

New infections rose only slightly by 240 in the last 24 hours, according to data published Sunday by the RKI. However, the relatively low figure was due to limited reporting by local authorities during the weekend.

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COVID-19

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

The Covid pandemic is continuing to cause problems around Germany, with concerns that the number of patients needing treatment will rise in the coming weeks.

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

In its weekly Covid report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said that confirmed infections appeared to be rising in some German states, and falling in others.

But experts warned that the situation remained tense, with many infections not reported. 

Therefore, in the coming weeks, “hospitalisations, an increase in intensive care treatment and deaths are to be expected, especially among the elderly”, said the RKI.

People over the age of 80 “continue to be most affected by severe courses of the disease”, the experts said in their report. 

The incidence of infections is continuing to rise for this age group, and the number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in medical treatment facilities as well as in old people’s and nursing homes is going up.

READ ALSO: Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

The number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) is also rising slightly. In the previous week, the number was reported to be around 1,330. And on Thursday July 28th, 1,550 people were in ICUs in Germany with 484 receiving ventilation treatment, according to the DIVI intensive care register. 

The number of deaths in connection with the virus is currently around just over 400 per week. The RKI says this trend is a plateau.

When it comes to the overall picture of Covid in Germany, the RKI said there was a “sideways movement rather than a decreasing trend”.

Last week, the nationwide 7-day incidence decreased slightly compared to the previous week. The overall picture shows falling incidences in most western German states and Berlin, with incidences still rising slightly in the other eastern German states and Bavaria.

The RKI estimates there’s been a total of 800,000 to 1.5 million people with Covid (who also have symptoms) in the past week alone in Germany.

Last week experts warned that they expected the Covid situation to get worse in the coming weeks as many schools in Germany return after the summer break.

READ ALSO: Germany’s summer Covid wave set to get worse

The Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which has dominated in Germany since mid-June, has almost completely displaced other variants. It accounts for 89 percent of samples in the past week, the RKI said.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned people against underestimating getting Covid again.

The SPD politician pointed out that it was very easy to become infected with BA.5 – even for those who were infected with a previous type.

He warned that many could become seriously ill or die, plus there’s the risk of picking up Long Covid.

“Therefore, we have to solve the problem not by constant infection, but by better vaccines,” Lauterbach said.

‘Call things as they are’

Lauterbach, meanwhile, defended himself against his choice of words when describing the possibility of a new dangerous Covid variant emerging in autumn. 

In an interview with Bild newspaper in April he said: “It is quite possible that we will get a highly contagious Omicron variant that is as deadly as Delta – that would be an absolute killer variant.”

He was slammed for his dramatic choice of words. 

This week Lauterbach said: “I use few vocabulary that is apocalyptic. But sometimes you have to call things as they are.”

If there were a virus that linked the contagion of the BA.5 variant with the severe course of a Delta variant, “that would be a killer variant”, he maintained.

But he stressed that he had “not said that such a variant is definitely coming, but that we have to be prepared for such a variant”.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab

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