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Berlin bans protest against coronavirus curbs

BERLIN, Aug 26 (Reuters) - The city of Berlin has banned demonstrations planned for this weekend to oppose measures imposed to stem the coronavirus pandemic, after organisers of a rally earlier this month failed to ensure marchers wore masks and kept their distance.

Andreas Geisel, the Berlin interior senator, said the authorities had to strike a balance between the right to freedom of assembly and the need to protect people against infection.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic with rising infection figures,” he said.

Germany has managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths relatively low compared with some other large European countries, but the number of new daily cases has been rising steadily since early July and has accelerated in recent weeks.

About 20,000 people, included libertarians, constitutional loyalists, far-right supporters and anti-vaccination activists, marched in Berlin on Aug. 1.

Geisel said the organisers of that protest had deliberately broken the rules they had previously accepted in talks with police, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

“Such behaviour is not acceptable. The state cannot be given the runaround,” he said, adding he did not want Berlin to be a stage for conspiracy theorists and right-wing extremists.

If crowds still gather despite the ban, the police will intervene, he said.

Reporting by Rene Wagner Writing by Emma Thomasson Editing by Mark Heinrich

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