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UPDATE: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Germany reacted with shock and outrage on Tuesday after a 20-year-old petrol station worker was shot dead by a customer angry about being asked to put on a mask while buying beer.

UPDATE: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row
Tributes laid where a cashier was killed while working at a petrol station in western Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Birgit Reichert

The killing on Saturday evening in the western town of Idar-Oberstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, is believed to be the first in Germany linked to the government’s coronavirus rules.

The row started when the cashier, a student, told the customer to put on a face mask, as required in all German shops. After a brief argument, the man left.

The suspect then returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he brought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off the mask and another discussion ensued.

“The perpetrator then pulled out a revolver and shot him straight in the head,” prosecutor Kai Fuhrmann told reporters on Monday.

The suspect, a 49-year-old German man, walked to a police station the following day to turn himself in. He was arrested and has confessed to the murder.

He told police he felt “cornered” by the coronavirus measures, which he perceived as an “ever-growing infringement on his rights” and he had seen “no other way out”, Fuhrmann said.

Idar-Oberstein mayor Frank Fruehauf called it “an unfathomable, terrible act”, and residents have laid flowers and candles outside the petrol station.

The murder comes just days before Germans head to the polls for a general election on September 26th that will see Chancellor Angela Merkel bow out of politics after 16 years.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz from the centre-left Social Democrats, the current frontrunner to succeed Merkel, said he was “shocked” by the murder of someone who only wanted “to protect himself and others”.

“As a society, we must resolutely stand up to hatred,” he tweeted.

Annalena Baerbock, the Green party’s candidate for the chancellery, said she was “shaken” by the murder and “very concerned” about growing radicalisation in the anti-mask community.

Paul Ziemiak, general secretary of Merkel’s CDU party, said the victim was “practically executed” in an act that showed “an inconceivable level of radicalisation”.

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, the parliamentary leader of the Green party, tweeted that she was “deeply shaken” by the killing, which she said was “the cruel result of hatred”.

Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner from Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, who hails from the region, said the murder was “shocking”.

The Tagesspiegel newspaper said far-right chat groups on Telegram were applauding the murder, with one user writing “Here we go!!!” while others posted thumbs-up emojis.

Germany has seen repeated protests from anti-mask demonstrators throughout the pandemic, some of them attracting tens of thousands of people.

The Querdenker (Lateral Thinkers) movement has emerged as the loudest voice against the government’s coronavirus curbs and regulations. Its marches have drawn a wide mix of people, including vaccine sceptics, neo-Nazis and members of Germany’s far-right AfD party

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the “hatred and incitement” of Querdenker “divides our community and kills people”. “They have no place in our society,” he wrote on Twitter.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency announced in April that it would start monitoring leading Querdenker figures over concerns they were trying to undermine the state and had ties to right-wing extremism.

Stephan Kramer, head of the domestic intelligence agency in the eastern state of Thuringia, told Germany’s RND media group he was saddened but not surprised by the killing.

“The escalation of right-wing conspiracy fantasies among aggressive and violence-prone citizens has been obvious for months,” he said.

“The growing aggressiveness is palpable in everyday life.”

Member comments

  1. Horrible. Tragic. I ask you, though, why is this article inclusive of querdenkers? People – many people – have been suffering under Covid measures. I believe that the man said, as you report: “he felt “cornered” by the coronavirus measures, which he perceived as an “ever-growing infringement on his rights” and he had seen “no other way out”. Surely, this is a troubled man by anyone’s account. He did not say he was a querdenker, nor to my mind infer it. Why do you then go on about that aspect? (And, yes, I read the German article that did much the same.) Maybe he comes out later to say exactly that, but as of your writing, he had not. It’s hard enough managing all this without placing blame and labelling people in a way that is not in alignment with what happened.

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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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