In Brief: Top German officials condemn COVID-19 conspiracy theories in the wake of weekend protests in major cities

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said those who spread misinformation are trying to divide the country and turn people against each other.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

By Sylvia Cunningham and Benjamin Restle

Top German officials are condemning the spread of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, many of which got oxygen this weekend at demonstrations where people protested coronavirus-related measures.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday those who spread misinformation are trying to sow division within the country.

Seibert added any aggression toward police officers and journalists is strongly and sharply condemned. In recent weeks, both groups have been attacked at protests.

On Saturday, Berlin police estimated about 1,200 people gathered at Alexanderplatz, 86 of whom were temporarily arrested for throwing bottles and reportedly acting aggressively toward officers.

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The head of Germany’s Criminal Police is urging people to pay close attention to violence against children – and not only during this pandemic.

While presenting a new annual report on Monday, Holger Münch told reporters that on average, 43 children were victims of sexual abuse every day last year. That’s a 9% increase in the number of reported cases compared to 2018.

Münch said though we don’t yet know whether the coronavirus lockdown restrictions will lead to even higher numbers, this crisis has put all families into an extraordinary situation. The combination of close quarters, existential fears and family tensions can escalate conflicts, he said.

He added that abuse happens “behind closed doors,” and it’s important – now and always – that people be vigilant and report instances of abuse if they’re made aware of them.

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