In Brief: Berlin rally against COVID-19 restrictions prompts outrage, calls to fine protesters who break pandemic rules

Berlin police estimate about 20,000 people participated in the “Day of Freedom: End of the Pandemic” rally in Mitte this weekend.

Photo by: Claudio Schwarz, Unsplash.

By Monika Müller-Kroll, Dina Elsayed and William Glucroft

Calls to impose tough measures, including fines, on demonstrators who do not abide by pandemic-related rules are getting louder in Berlin, after thousands took to the streets of Mitte on Saturday to protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

The head of the German Association of Cities, Helmut Dedy, told the Funke media group that demonstrations should not come at the cost of new coronavirus hot spots and that ignoring pandemic rules is “irresponsible.”

The Berlin police eventually dispersed the rally on Saturday, where officers reported few of the 20,000 participants were seen wearing a mouth and nose covering or keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 meters.

***

Berlin’s Housing Senator Katrin Lompscher resigned on Sunday.

Public broadcaster rbb reports the decision came after Lompscher’s office acknowledged that she had held onto payments she was legally required to transfer to the state.

Senators who earn money from sitting on boards of state-owned firms are only allowed to keep a portion of that compensation.

A spokeswoman for Lompscher, a member of Berlin’s Left Party in the state’s governing coalition, said she failed to forward about 7,000 euros of the approximately 24,000 euros she earned between 2017 and 2019, but she has now done so.

In her resignation letter, Lompscher said she had made a mistake, but it was not intentional. In a statement, the Left Party said it respected Lompscher’s decision and thanked her for her work.

The head of Berlin’s opposition CDU faction meanwhile said “many questions remain open,” and called for more transparency from the Berlin Senate.

***

German Health Minister Jens Spahn confirmed he wants to make COVID-19 tests mandatory this week for travelers returning from high-risk areas.

Spahn told public broadcaster ARD that the proposed requirement comes as Germany has built the capacity to conduct 1.2 million tests per week.

Spahn said the measure is being coordinated with the different states so that it could be implemented at airports and train stations around the country.

Voluntary COVID-19 testing already began last week at Berlin’s two airports and Monday at Berlin’s central bus station.

A negative test result would mean avoiding the two-week quarantine period, mandatory for travelers returning from high-risk areas.

This news is brought to you in cooperation with Berliner Rundfunk.

Whether it’s our coverage of the coronavirus, rent freezes or more light-hearted subjects like Berlin’s pandas, you can count us for factual and informative content. We are the go-to source for the English-as-a-common-language community in Berlin and beyond. The pandemic will challenge us to find new ways of doing reporting, but we will continue to bring you the programming you love and news you can trust. We are a listener-funded public radio station, driven by donors like you. So please consider donating today to keep us on air, online and in your community.