Thousands protest in Berlin against coronavirus restrictions

Demonstrators attend a protest against the government's restrictions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, August 1, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 August 2020

Thousands protest in Berlin against coronavirus restrictions

  • The demonstration, entitled “The end of the pandemic -- freedom day,” was planned for weeks and drew people from various parts of Germany
  • Officials have warned against complacency as the number of new cases crept up in recent weeks

BERLIN:Thousands of protesters against German coronavirus restrictions converged Saturday in Berlin for a demonstration proclaiming “the end of the pandemic” has arrived just as authorities voice increasing concern about an upturn in new infections.
A crowd of people whistling and cheering, and with few masks in sight, marched through downtown Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate ahead of a rally on a wide boulevard that runs through the city's Tiergarten park.
Protesters held up home-made placards featuring slogans that included “Corona, false alarm,” “We are being forced to wear a muzzle,” “Natural defense instead of vaccination" and “End the corona panic — bring fundamental rights back.”
They chanted, “We’re here and we’re loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom.”
The demonstration, entitled “The end of the pandemic -- freedom day,” was planned for weeks and drew people from various parts of Germany. Police used bullhorns to chide participants to keep to distancing rules and to wear masks.
Previous protests against anti-virus restrictions in Germany drew a variety of attendees, including conspiracy theorists and right-wing populists.
Germany’s management of the pandemic has been viewed as relatively successful. The country's death toll — just over 9,150 out of more than 210,670 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday - is lower than in comparable nations.
The German government has been easing lockdown measures since late April but social-distancing rules remain in place, as does a requirement to wear masks on public transit and in shops.
Officials have warned against complacency as the number of new cases crept up in recent weeks. They pleaded with Germans this week to observe the distancing and mask rules and, amid concern about residents bringing home infections from summer trips abroad, introduced free tests for people entering the country.
Germany's national disease control center registered 955 new cases on Friday, a high figure by recent standards that underlined the upward trend.


Joint US military drills get thumbs down from Thais amid coronavirus fears

Updated 11 min 57 sec ago

Joint US military drills get thumbs down from Thais amid coronavirus fears

  • Some 106 American soldiers will join three separate exercises from Aug. 18 to 30
  • ‘Is it really necessary to take in foreign soldiers now? If it does not impact the relationship just postpone it’

BANGKOK: This month’s joint US-Thai military exercises in Thailand have drawn criticism from Thais on social media after authorities announced that dozens of visiting American troops would be undergoing their mandatory 14-day quarantine in Bangkok hotels.
Some 106 American soldiers will join three separate exercises from Aug. 18 to 30 in three provinces and would be subjected to the same requirements as anyone entering the country, said the head of the Thai Army’s anti-COVID-19 Unit, Nattapon Srisawat.
Thailand has been over two months without a local transmission and has kept infections to just over 3,300.
It has closed borders and airspace to tourists to keep the virus out and allows entry only to Thai repatriates or foreigners with special permission. All must undergo quarantine.
A popular Thai Facebook page attracted 25,000 likes when it questioned the necessity of holding joint exercises between the two historic allies amid a global health crisis.
“Is it really necessary to take in foreign soldiers now? If it does not impact the relationship just postpone it,” it said.
“Even citizens who need to travel have delayed their plans, why can’t the military training be postponed?”
More than 70 American soldiers arrived from the US Pacific territory of Guam on Monday and would be staying in alternative state quarantine, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the country’s coronavirus task force, referring to the mandatory quarantine that foreigners must undergo at their own expense.
More troops were due to arrive on Tuesday from Japan.
Asked about the criticism of the drills, Nattapon said that participants will have undergone two tests and would not be exposed to the public during the exercises.
“These soldiers will not be able leave the barracks,” he added.
The exercises come as Thailand’s military suspended sending forces abroad after nine Thai personnel tested positive for the coronavirus upon return from training in Hawaii.
The US embassy in Bangkok did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.