Thousands in Leipzig protest German coronavirus restrictions

BERLIN (AP) — Thousands of people demonstrated in central Leipzig on Saturday against government-imposed restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus after a court issued a last-minute decision rejecting the eastern city’s attempt to move the protest elsewhere.

“It is hard to explain how only two households are permitted to meet together and yet 16,000 people are allowed to demonstrate on one plaza,” city spokesman Matthias Hasberg told the dpa news agency after the appeals court decision.

By the city’s calculations, only 5,000 people could gather in the Augustusplatz plaza outside the opera house and keep 1.5 meters (5 feet) from one another, so administrators had sought to have the demonstration moved to a larger location outside the center. Demonstrators said 16,000 were expected at the rally, though figures indicating how many actually showed up were not immediately available.

The court did not issue details about its reasoning.

Protesters carried German flags and one woman carrying a sign saying “For: truth, justice and freedom” wore a mask over her eyes while leaving her nose and mouth uncovered.

The demonstration came as Germany finished its first week into what is being called “lockdown light” with new restrictions to try and slow spiking coronavirus cases.

The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute said Saturday that Germany’s states had reported 23,300 new cases overnight, surpassing the record of 21,506 set the day before, which was the first time the country had registered more than 20,000 daily cases.

A four-week partial shutdown took effect on Monday, with bars, restaurants, leisure and sports facilities being closed and new contact restrictions imposed. Shops and schools remain open.

The Robert Koch Institute says that the effects will first be seen two to three weeks from the start of the closures.

In Munich, an appeals court on Saturday upheld the southern city’s ban on demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions that were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

The court ruled authorities in the Bavarian city were within their rights to ban the demonstrations under infection protection regulations, dpa reported.

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