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COVID-19

German protests against Covid restrictions turn nasty

As Germany tightens its Covid restrictions and considers a vaccine mandate, demonstrators are stepping up their protests - online and on the street.

People protesting against vaccine mandates and Covid restrictions.
People protesting against vaccine mandates and Covid restrictions in Rostock, northern Germany, on Monday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bernd Wüstneck

A call is out on Telegram for people opposing Covid restrictions to share private addresses of German “local MPs, politicians and other personalities” who they believe are “seeking to destroy” them through pandemic curbs.

Those on the list should no longer be allowed to “live a carefree life,” wrote the group called “Coronavirus-Information” in the message that was put online late November.

Since then it has been viewed by 25,000 people.

On Friday evening, a group of corona-sceptics armed with flaming torches massed outside the house of Petra Köpping, the health minister of Saxony state.

The scenes in the stronghold of Germany’s far-right, accompanied by thumping drum beats, were reminiscent of Nazi-era marches, drawing condemnation from mainstream politicians.

Olaf Scholz, who is due to take office on Wednesday as Germany’s new chancellor, urged society “not to be infected” by such “aggressive” behaviour.

“When such flaming torch processions take place in front of the house of a health minister, that is meant as a threat – that is not just an expression of opinion, and we as democrats strongly reject that,” he said.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new government condemns anti-vax movement

Not only in Germany, but also in the Netherlands and Austria, security services have warned of growing radicalisation among coronavirus-sceptics.

And the Telegram list is just one in a multitude of such examples flourishing on social networks in Germany, attracting opponents of coronavirus curbs from mask-wearing to vaccinations.

‘Dilemma’

The incoming German government’s recent call for compulsory vaccinations has fired up another wave of rage.

Thomas Strobl, who heads the conference of regional interior ministers, warned that mandatory jabs will only “further harden the attitudes of opponents”.

Strobl also accused Internet regulators of falling short in clamping down on such threatening calls online.

But Simone Rafael of the anti-racism Amadeu Antonio foundation said that policing the online sphere was easier said than done.

“German politicians are confronted with a dilemma when it comes to networks like Telegram,” said the expert on online radicalisation.

The only solution would be to completely shut it down. But in democratic Germany, no one wants that.”

As a result, conspiracy theories and violence are spreading. Some users feel so untouchable that they use their real names to threaten people online.

‘Dead serious’

While a wave of dissent against corona curbs had been there since the beginning of the pandemic, the hardening of the discourse is palpable today.

“For the followers of such narratives, this is not a joke but something that is dead serious,” said Miro Dittrich, specialist in the far-right for the research centre CeMAS.

“They are now reaching a point where they can no longer find solutions to their fictional problems through normal means,” he said. As a result, some may turn even to violence.

“We see more and more users on Telegram spreading private addresses in order to attack these people,” he said.

Those targeted have voiced fears of growing threats.

“Doctors involved in the fight against the pandemic are reporting increasing hostility and threats,” said Susanne Johna, who heads the Marburger Bund, a federation of the sector, in an interview with the Funke newspaper group.

After all, some have shown they are prepared to take a step beyond threats.

A young cashier working at a petrol station who asked a client to put on his mask, as required by the law, was shot dead by the man in September, becoming the first fatal casualty of the increasingly violent corona-sceptic movement.

By Max BIEDERBECK

Member comments

  1. You should consider that the people that remains unvaccinated cannot do/move much these days. However, they are still pointed as being responsible of the high number of infections, which is difficult to believe for a person de-facto in lock-down. So the resent messages of MPs are received as an aggression, more personal than logical. I think German MPs should consider more gentle communications to the people, they should avoid sowing hatred.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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