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Berlin bans protests against coronavirus measures

Berlin bans protests against coronavirus measures
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Officials in Berlin are banning demonstrations against coronavirus prevention measures, calling the protests themselves a breach of social distancing rules.

Authorities noted one protest occurring on Aug. 1 during which demonstrators flouted measures such as social distancing and mask requirements, The Associated Press reported.

That protest against pandemic measures garnered nearly 15,000 marchers in the street, with demonstrators holding signs that read "Corona, false alarm" and chanting "We're here and we're loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom."

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"We need to weigh the basic right of freedom of assembly against the sanctity of life," said Andreas Geisel, Berlin's top security official. "We chose life."

Georg Pazderski, the leader of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, criticized the ban, saying it is disproportionate and unjustified.

An organizer of one of the protests said it would attempt to appeal the ban.

Berlin Health Minister Jens Spahn announced Wednesday the city will end mandatory COVID-19 testing from high-risk areas abroad to focus on testing those with symptoms or possible exposure to the illness.

"With the end of the vacation period ... this risk is going down again," Spahn told reporters, according to the AP. "We have to focus more on patients with symptoms and those who had contact with COVID patients."

Spahn did not say what day the new strategy would commence, but the details will likely be announced Thursday following a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country's 16 state governors.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, the country has recorded 238,879 infections and 9,285 fatalities since the pandemic began earlier this year.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported 1,576 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, with 1,278 cases the previous day.