Merkel defends rights restrictions during COVID-19

According to the German chancellor their main goal is to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed

Photo: EPA German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday once again described the restrictions on fundamental rights during the coronavirus pandemic as an "imposition" on democracy - but at the same time she defended the measures.

The conservative politician said in her weekly podcast released to mark Constitution Day on Saturday that she could understand citizens' concerns about the constraints during the pandemic.

The government was not taking a casual approach to restrictions on fundamental rights: "That is why they should be as short as possible. But they were necessary, and we have always justified this because we feel responsible for the dignity of people, as stated in Article 1 of our Basic Law," she said.

This includes preventing the health system from being overwhelmed, and fortunately this has also been achieved, Merkel said.

"But of course we now have to justify when restrictions are being lifted why we are not easing something yet and why we can already relax something else. And of course we always have to weigh the proportionality of measures against each other in this way," she added.

Therefore, she said she was glad that the current infection situation made it possible to make many things possible again that had been restricted for a few weeks.

Merkel went on to say that the coronavirus pandemic presents society with special challenges, perhaps the greatest in the 71 years since the Basic Law - Germany's constitution - was passed on May 23, 1949. It is all the more important to respect the principles of the Basic Law, she said.

As of Saturday morning, more than 177,700 infections with the coronavirus had been recorded across Germany, according to a compilation of official state figures compiled by dpa, while at least 8,199 people have died.

Demonstrations against restrictions imposed by the state to curb the coronavirus pandemic were planned again in numerous German cities on Saturday. Already over the past few weekends thousands of people across Germany have demonstrated against the government's coronavirus policies and interference with fundamental rights. Among the protesters are those who accuse the government of inventing the virus in order to impose dictatorship-like conditions. Their anger is focused on everyone from the chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her health minister, Jens Spahn, to the virologists and epidemiologists who are advising them. The US billionaire Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft who has committed to a fund to solve the crisis, is often depicted at the demonstrations as a satanic figure, accused of engineering the health emergency in order to achieve world dominance.

But there have also been counter-protests directed against such conspiracy theorists or "right-wing agitation."

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