News Coronavirus Thousands of coronavirus protesters oppose restrictions in Germany, UK, France

Thousands of coronavirus protesters oppose restrictions in Germany, UK, France

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Thousands of anti-coronavirus protesters have taken to the streets in a number of countries to oppose pandemic restrictions and question the truth of the virus.

About 300 people were arrested as Berlin police disbanded a mass protest against coronavirus curbs after marchers failed to keep their distance and wear masks as instructed.

Similar events took place in Paris, London and elsewhere on Saturday, drawing crowds in the hundreds.

The protests came as infections rise across Europe – with France reporting its highest daily increase since the initial lockdown – and as public frustration at measures to contain the virus grows in some quarters.

The Berlin rally included far-right groups and members identifying with the US-based right-wing conspiracy movement QAnon, with crowd numbers estimated to range from 18,000 to 38,000.

Participants waved imperialist flags and held signs supporting Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Speakers included the anti-vaccine campaigner Robert F Kennedy Jnr, the nephew of assassinated president John F Kennedy.

The London crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square calling for the end of what they called “COVID hoax” measures.

People gather at the Victory Column in the city centre to hear speeches. Photo: Getty

“Unfortunately, we have no other option,” Berlin police said on Twitter, adding people had failed to comply with the safety conditions of the march.

Protesters were dispersing peacefully although there were some pockets of disturbance, such as a construction container fire and blocked roads, police said.

About 3000 officers had been deployed to control crowds estimated at 18,000.

Police had been preparing for possible violence as activists opposed to measures to contain the virus urged social media followers across Europe to arm themselves and gather in Berlin.

Police push a crowd of people from the Platz der Republik in front of the Reichstag building. Photo: Getty

At a demonstration close to Brandenburg Gate, several thousand were still gathered by early evening, some throwing rocks and bottles.

Police arrested about 200 protesters, Berlin’s interior minister Andreas Geisel said, describing the group as “extremist”.

Seven police were injured.

Earlier this week the city banned the protest but a German regional court overnight gave the final go-ahead by overruling the earlier decision.

Until now Germany has managed the coronavirus crisis better than many of its European counterparts, with rigorous testing helping to hold down infections and deaths.

But new daily infections have accelerated in recent weeks, as in much of the world.