germany lockdown protests
© REUTERS/Christian Mang
Members of the police stand guard as people protest against the government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), as the lower house of parliament Bundestag discusses additions for the Infection Protection Act, in Berlin, Germany April 21, 2021
Demonstrators have gathered in the thousands in the German capital as the nation's parliament debates whether to give Merkel's government more power to impose lockdowns on areas with high Covid-19 infections.

Protesters, many of them not wearing face masks, descended on Berlin on Wednesday morning to demonstrate their opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel's proposal which would give the national government power to implement new restrictions if regional Covid-19 incident rates exceed certain thresholds.

Music could be heard playing as those gathered near the Brandenburg Gate waved flags and banners embroiled with the messages "End scaremongering now," as well as "Peace, freedom, no dictatorship" and "democracy."

The police said they have 2,200 officers on duty to secure the area and to ensure compliance with the Covid-19 rules. The Reichstag building and the Brandenburg Gate have been cordoned off. A spokesman for the police said water cannons were ready and could be used if necessary. Berlin police have been reinforced by the federal police and officers from several federal states.

The parliament will vote on the new Infection Protection Law on Wednesday, which would give Merkel the power to introduce a nationwide lockdown or regional restrictions. The measures would include a nighttime curfew, school closures and new limits on private gatherings, sports and shop openings.

Germany saw mass protests in November as the second wave hit the country and new restrictions were brought in by the chancellor. The nation is now facing a third wave, along with much of Europe, as new variants including the more contagious British strain become more prevalent. The seven-day infection rate sits at 176 cases per 100,000 people, lower than France but many times higher than the UK.