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COVID-19

Germany’s spy agency to monitor ‘Querdenker’ Covid sceptics

Germany's domestic intelligence agency will start monitoring leading figures in the protest movement against Covid restrictions, the interior ministry said Wednesday, over concerns they pose a threat to democracy and have ties to right-wing extremism.

Germany's spy agency to monitor 'Querdenker' Covid sceptics
A 'Querdenker' demonstration in Wiesbaden on April 17th. Photo: DPA

The monitoring will focus on members of Germany’s “Querdenker” (Lateral Thinkers) movement, which has emerged as the loudest voice opposed to coronavirus curbs and an active promoter of conspiracy theories denying basic facts about the pandemic.

Some protest organisers “have clearly demonstrated that their agenda goes beyond simply mobilising protests against the government’s corona measures”, the ministry said in a statement.

Their main aim appears to be to “permanently undermine trust in state institutions and their representatives”, it added.

They are suspected of seeking out links with right-wing extremists such as “Reichsbürger” (Citizens of the Reich) who question the legitimacy of the modern Federal Republic of Germany, and of spreading anti-Semitic messages and QAnon myths, the ministry added.

READ ALSO: How did a fringe corona conspiracy theory in Germany grow to a nationwide movement?

They also encourage supporters to ignore official orders and challenge the state monopoly on violence, it said.

“Querdenker” demonstrations over the past year have attracted thousands, at times tens of thousands, of supporters, where anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists are seen marching side by side with neo-Nazis and members of the far-right AfD party.

The demonstrations are notorious for being broken up early by police because protesters fail to comply with rules on social distancing and mask wearing, and have occasionally descended into clashes.

READ ALSO: Thousands protest against Germany’s plans for nationwide Covid-19 measures

For intelligence officers to be legally allowed to start observing parts of the anti-corona groups, Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) had to create an entirely new category because the “Querdenkers” do not fit neatly into the existing classifications of right-wing, left-wing or Islamic extremism.

The new category is for groups suspected of being “anti-democratic and/or delegitimising the state in a way that endangers security”.

The designation allows intelligence officers to gather data about individuals and their activities, and can in a further step include shadowing people and tapping their communications.

The BfV is already monitoring Germany’s anti-Islam, anti-migrant AfD opposition party.

Member comments

  1. “The new category is for groups suspected of being “anti-democratic and/or delegitimising the state in a way that endangers security”.

    And this doesn’t set off any alarm bells? Least of all from our fourth estate whose role now appears to be to obediently parrot the government’s position.

    1. It does…what is more “anti-democratic” than spying on people who disagree with the government? Recently Germany is showing its true colors…

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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