New mobilization in Germany against health measures

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Thousands of people gathered in Stuttgart on Saturday to protest against health measures as debate swells in Germany over tightening restrictions in the face of the third wave of COVID-19.

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Several thousand demonstrators, most without masks, arrived in the middle of the afternoon in a square in the northeast of the city after a march from the center, noted an AFP journalist.

Participants “ignored” repeated requests to respect health rules, including mask wearing and social distancing, police said in a statement, without reporting any major incidents.

This movement, opposed to the measures put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and which is called “Querdenken”, or “Non-conformist”, has been manifesting regularly in Germany since the start of the pandemic.

It brings together members of the far left, followers of conspiracy theories, detractors of vaccination as well as supporters of the far right.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people gathered in Cassel on March 20, giving rise to clashes with the police and several arrests.

In Stuttgart, the demonstrators demanded on their panels in particular the “end of the dictatorship of COVID”.

“The measures are exaggerated”, explains Evelyn, a protester, who calls “the end of the lockdown” and “does not believe” the official figures of the infections.

“I am against compulsory vaccination,” adds Rainer.

The mobilization comes as Germany debates a tightening of measures in the face of the surge in infections.

The government “is studying” the possibilities to standardize health rules “to stop the third wave if the measures of the regions are not sufficient” a spokesperson said on Saturday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is in favor of strict measures to contain the virus, while the incidence rate was 131 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Saturday in one week.

In a televised interview last Sunday, she called for the establishment of curfews, never before applied at the national level, and threatened to involve the central state in a more restrictive way if the rules were not applied by the regions, responsible for health in the German federal system.

The head of government then urged the Germans on Thursday to respect the instructions and in particular to renounce non-essential travel during the Easter weekend.