IN PICTURES: Police in Berlin halt anti-coronavirus protest

Police in Berlin have called off an 18,000-strong protest against coronavirus restrictions, saying protesters had not worn masks, as required by a court.

IN PICTURES: Police in Berlin halt anti-coronavirus protest
A protester (right) holds a sign saying 'mask off'. Photo: AFP

“Unfortunately, we have no other option,” Berlin police wrote on Twitter. “We've approached the leader of the demonstration and informed him that his assembly will be dissolved by the police. All the measures taken so far have not led to compliance with the conditions.”

By 3pm, many of the protesters had sat down at the junction of Friedrichstrasse and Torstrasse, with police slowly removing them by force.
Photo:  Bernd Von Jutrczenka / dpa
The crowd gathered in the morning at Brandenburg Gate on Saturday morning, with demonstrators shouting “Open the gate” and “We are the people,” chants taken from those of the pro-democracy movement in former East Germany.
The protest was called by Querdenken 711 (Lateral Thinking 711), a Stuttgart-based libertarian group founded by the software entrepreneur Michael Ballweg, which has some 16,000 followers on Facebook. But far-right groups and those against vaccination have also got involved. 
Robert F Kennedy Jr,  the nephew of assassinated US president John F Kennedy and a prominent anti-vaxxer was set to speak at the event. 
Protesters at the Brandenburg gate brandishing signs declaring German politicians 'guilty'. Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa
A large procession began making its way down the Friedrichstrasse shopping street. Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa
Some protesters held signs asking people to question the need to anti-infection measures, calling for people to have a more open mind. Here protester hold signs saying “question your fear”. 
Photo: AFP

The demonstration brought together a disparate mix of the far-right, the far-left, opponents of vaccination, and in many areas had a celebratory party atmosphere, with drums, chanting and cheering. 

Counter-protesters came out around Humbolt University, chanting “You're marching alongside Nazis”. 

Others held signs saying “Stop the corona-deniers”. 
Photo: John Macdougall/AFP
“Even Patrick know that Nazis are shit,” reads this counter-protester's banner. 
Photo: John Macdougall/AFP
Most of those protesting against coronavirus curbs refused to wear masks or keep their distance. 
Photo: John Macdougall/AFP


Saxony becomes first German state to get rid of compulsory masks in shops

People living in Saxony won't have to wear a mask in shops and supermarkets from Friday after the state ruled the restriction could be lifted in low Covid areas.

Saxony becomes first German state to get rid of compulsory masks in shops
Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

However, masks will still have to be worn on public transport as well as in medical facilities and at services like the hairdresser, state Health Minister Petra Köpping said after a cabinet meeting in Dresden on Tuesday. 

The state decided that masks will not be needed in areas where the Covid incidence is below 10 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days. 

All districts and cities in the eastern state are currently below the threshold of 10, meaning the relaxation will apply everywhere. 

The number of cases per 100,000 people within seven days in Saxony stood at 2.2 on Tuesday. Around 122 Covid-19 patients are currently being cared for in Saxon hospitals, with 35 patients in intensive care units.

Although mask rules are being relaxed in many parts of Germany – particularly in outdoor areas – Saxony has become the first state to drop the requirement completely in retailers. 

READ ALSO: The new rules on masks in Germany

Köpping said that it was down to Saxony’s low incidence rates, but said this was not something that could be taken for granted. She appealed to the public to remain cautious.

The new regulation applies from Friday until July 28th initially, but may be extended. 

Like in many other countries, compulsory masks are a contentious issue in Germany, with politicians debating whether they will still be needed when everyone has been offered a vaccine.

READ ALSO: Masks ‘will be needed’ indoors in autumn, says German Health Minister

Negative test after vacation or home office

Saxony is also bringing in a new rule on tests for unvaccinated people.

Anyone who has been on holiday for more than five days must present a negative test when they return to work. This also applies to employees who have been working from home. Vaccinated people and those who’ve recovered from Covid are not included.

This rule comes into force on July 26th.

Vaccination centres without appointments

The state also wants to make it easier for people to get jabbed. So from Wednesday, residents do not need an appointment for a vaccine at any time of day.

“You can just go to the vaccination centre and be vaccinated,” said Köpping. So far, residents could be vaccinated from 2pm in centres without an appointment.

Saxony is the only federal state that had not yet reached the 50 percent quota for first doses. According to the Robert Koch Institute, 49.9 percent of people in Saxony have received at least the first vaccination, 40 percent are fully vaccinated.

In Bremen, 67.8 percent of residents have been given one jab. Saarland has the highest vaccination rate (47.2 percent) for the fully jabbed, while Brandenburg is trailing behind with 39.2 percent of residents being fully vaccinated.