German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday warned of a difficult winter to come, two weeks into a month-long nationwide partial shutdown aimed at dampening coronavirus case numbers.
“The coming winter will make heavy demands of us all,” Merkel said in her weekly podcast. Her comments come at the halfway point of a month-long set of restrictions on public life in Germany aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.
“The virus will continue to dominate our lives for quite some time,” she said, adding this would mean that people could not meet up as easily as in the past.
Her comments come ahead of a meeting planned for Monday with state representatives to assess the effectiveness of the country’s partial shutdown.
Looking ahead to the meeting, Bavarian premier Markus Soeder said there would be no relaxation of the rules until at least the end of the month, and he would not rule out the possibility of restrictions being further tightened or extended into December.
“Whether [the shutdown] has to be extended – possible, we’ll see. Whether more needs to be done – that will all be decided,” he said.
Meanwhile, a number of demonstrations against the measures were held across the country on Saturday, including in Karlsruhe, Regensburg and the financial hub Frankfurt.
Around 1,000 supporters of Querdenken (Lateral Thinking) took to the streets of the Bavarian city of Regensburg on Saturday afternoon, far fewer than the 2,000 participants organizers had expected.
About 1,000 also showed up at a Querdenken rally in Karlsruhe, in the south-west.
In Frankfurt, police blasted water cannon at leftist demonstrators who had gathered in a counter-protest against a Querdenken group rallying in opposition to coronavirus restrictions.
The water cannon was used after officers came under attack, the police said. Police also used batons on the counter-protesters, who numbered around 300.
The counter-protesters had blocked routes in the city centre, lining up in several streets and holding banners with Antifa symbols and inscriptions such as “Bring down the right.”
They were protesting against 600 supporters of Querdenken, a movement has gained traction in Germany in recent months by arguing that the government’s coronavirus restrictions encroach on citizens’ rights.
Supporters of the Reichsbuerger (Reich citizens) movement, which rejects the legitimacy of the modern German state, along with groups of right-wing extremists have been seen at past Querdenken rallies.
The rallies come as authorities warn that the wider anti-lockdown movement is becoming more radical in its approach.
“The tone in the speeches has intensified, and fantasies of overthrowing the German government are being openly propagated,” Bernhard Witthaut, head of the domestic intelligence agency in the state of Lower Saxony, told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung on Saturday.
Germany on Saturday recorded 22,461 new coronavirus infections, the country’s disease control centre said. So far, the country has reported 773,556 cases, and a death toll of 12,378 – an increase of 178 in the past 24 hours.