Thousands of people gathered across multiple cities in Germany on Saturday, May 16, to protest lockdown measures and social distancing rules amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The protests are being held despite recent relaxation of lockdown measures. In Munich, organizers have estimated that up to 10,000 participants will attend a rally at the Theresienwiese, where the annual Oktoberfest beer festival is held. Police stated that they expect a crowd of up to 5000 participants at the Wasen festival grounds in Stuttgart and a similar number at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin. Thousands of police and riot control officers have been deployed to the protest locations in anticipation of the gatherings.
Previously, on Wednesday, May 13, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced that Germany would begin easing border controls in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. All border crossings with France, Switzerland, and Austria are open from May 15, with random checks in place. Business trips and family visits will reportedly be permitted. The minister further stated that these borders will be fully open by Monday, June 15, should there not be a rise in COVID-19 cases in the interim. Additionally, the border with Luxembourg will be fully open from May 15. Access through all other borders will remain restricted until further notice.
Chancellor Angela Merkel also lifted some nationwide restrictions on Wednesday, May 6, allowing for the reopening of shops, businesses, and schools. Social distancing measures are to remain in place until Friday, June 5. The use of face masks in public spaces became compulsory as of Monday, April 27, including on public transport and while shopping.
As of May 16, authorities have confirmed 175,233 COVID-19 cases nationwide, with 7931 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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