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Angela Merkel was humiliated earlier this week after she was forced to postpone plans to tighten lockdown rules. The German chancellor was forced into the surprise U-turn after admitting she did not have the backing of state leaders in the country to push through the new rules. This followed a massive anti-lockdown protest in Berlin against the planned measures, which drew several thousand people.
Protesters at the rally carried banners reading: “Merkel must go, democracy must stay!”
The protesters faced a brutal response from the police, who deployed a water cannon near Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate.
The police also detained several people when the crowd refused to disperse, prompting protesters to retaliated by throwing bottles and setting off smoke bombs.
Barricades were set up to prevent protesters from storming the Bundestag, after a police issued a warning about possible “attacks” on the parliamentary building.
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Angela Merkel said after the meeting with state leaders: “I could have imagined imposing further contact restrictions today, but there was no majority for that.”
The German government was forced to drop plans to make mask-wearing compulsory in schools, reduce class sizes and limit social contact to one household or friend.
The Chancellor had also wanted to ban any kind of party until Christmas Eve but was blocked following pressure from state leaders wary of the economic cost.
The critics of the new lockdown push claim the laws would give Mrs Merkel too much power and endanger citizens’ civil rights without the approval of Parliament.
The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) has even compared the measures with the Enabling Act of 1933 that paved the way for Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.
Germany imposed a month-long ‘lockdown lite’ on 2nd November to curb the second wave that is sweeping much of Europe.
Under the current rules, people are being encouraged to stay home, restaurants and bars remain closed, and public meetings are limited to just two households of up to 10 people in total.
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Despite this ‘soft lockdown,’ Germany reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Friday, upping the pressure on leaders of the country’s 16 federal states to implement stricter restrictions.
The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases recorded 23,648 confirmed new cases and 260 new deaths, which now stand at 13,630, an increase of more than a third in four weeks.
Angela Merkel postponed any decision on further lockdown measures until a meeting between the Chancellor and 16 state premiers next week.
She said to party colleagues on Friday: “The numbers are starting to stabilise – but too slowly.”
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