Police fire water cannon at people protesting in Berlin against Covid-19 rules

Demonstrations come as Germany’s parliament debates changes to its infection protection law

German police on Wednesday fired water cannon at protesters in central Berlin who had gathered outside the landmark Brandenburg Gate to oppose the government’s push to enforce restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Permission for the protest was revoked after the demonstrators refused calls to wear face masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The protests came as Germany’s lower and upper houses of parliament examined proposed changes to the country’s existing infection protection law, which would allow the government to impose restrictions on social contact, rules on mask-wearing and consumption of alcohol in public spaces, and to close shops and cancel sports events.

Critics of the changes, which are expected to pass through both houses, say they give the state too much power and endanger fundamental civil rights.

The far-right Alternative for Germany likened it to the Enabling Act of 1933, which paved the way for Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship.

One protester wore a face mask with the words 'Merkel-Muzzle', while others held banners daubed with slogans such as 'For Enlightenment, Peace and Freedom'.

Police dressed in riot gear were desperate to stop the protest reaching the parliament building, the site of mass demonstrations in August. Fencing had been put up around the building and nearby parliamentary offices.

The number of Germany’s Covid-19 cases rose by 17,561 on Wednesday to 833,307, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed. The death toll stands at 13,119.

Most Germans have accepted what is being called a 'lockdown light' to tackle the second wave of the virus, but protests have broken out across the country.