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Nearly 40,000 protest against coronavirus curbs in Germany

BERLIN: Berlin police broke up a mass protest against coronavirus curbs on Saturday and arrested 300 in the German capital after demonstrators failed to keep their distance and wear masks as instructed.

Around 38,000 protesters gathered for events across the city. Similar events took place in Paris, London and elsewhere on Saturday.

"Unfortunately, we have no other option," Berlin police said on Twitter, adding that those taking part had failed to comply with the safety conditions.

At a demonstration close to Brandenburg Gate, several thousand were gathered, some throwing rocks and bottles.

Berlin's Interior Minister Andreas Geisel described the group as "extremist". Seven police officers were injured.

The German government yesterday slammed the "unacceptable" behaviour of protesters after some attempted to storm the Reichstag, the Parliament building.

The Reichstag is the "symbolic centre of our democracy", Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Sunday's edition of the Bild newspaper.

"It is unacceptable to see extremists and troublemakers use it for their own ends."

Germany has managed the coronavirus crisis better than some of its neighbours.

There have been fewer than 10,000 deaths so far, compared with more than 41,000 in UK and 35,000 in Italy, and about 30,000 each in France and Spain. But new infections have accelerated in recent weeks.

On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to keep their guard up against the virus.

"This is a serious matter, as serious as it's ever been, and you need to carry on taking it seriously," she said.

Protesters had gathered before the Brandenburg Gate ahead of the march with signs reading "Stop the corona lies" and "Merkel must go".

Elsewhere in Europe, about 200 activists held a rally in Paris to protest against sanitary measures with slogans such as "No to the health dictatorship" and "Let our children breathe".

In London, several hundred demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square calling the coronavirus a hoax and demanding an end to restrictions.

Many carried banners saying "Fake News" or "Masks are Muzzles" and rejecting any mandatory vaccination programmes. - REUTERS, AFP

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