Alarm in Germany as ‘corona demos’ take off

Munich: Angered by a slew of lockdown measures or a purported vaccine plan by Bill Gates, thousands took to the streets on Saturday in Germany in a growing wave of demonstrations that has alarmed even Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Initially starting as a handful of protesters decrying tough restrictions on public life to halt transmission of the coronavirus, the protests have swelled in recent weeks to gatherings of thousands in major German cities.
Huge numbers turned up again across Germany on Saturday, with more than 5,000 gathering in Stuttgart, at least 1,500 in Frankfurt and around 1,000 in Munich.
The growing demonstrations have sparked comparison to the Pegida marches at the height of Europe's refugee crisis in 2015, raising questions over whether the strong support that Merkel is currently enjoying due to her handling of the virus crisis could evaporate.
Just as it won popularity by fanning anti-migrant sentiment five years ago, the far-right AfD party is now openly encouraging protesters and repositioning itself as an anti-lockdown party.
A recent poll commissioned by the Spiegel news magazine found that almost one in four Germans surveyed voiced "understanding" for the demonstrations.
The development has shocked the political establishment, with Merkel reportedly telling the top brass of her centre-right CDU party of the "worrying" trend that may bear some hallmarks of Russia's disinformation campaigns.
Germany in March took unprecedented measures to shut down public life. - AFP