Berlin police have broken up protests for failing to wear face masks and socially distance as up to 18,000 descend upon the German capital.
The demonstrators, who were calling for an end to coronavirus restrictions, flooded into the square in front of Brandenburg gate before marching down a main street.
They blew whistles and brandished placards declaring ‘Merkel must go’ and ‘stop the corona lies!’ as they called for a return to pre-lockdown life.
They were joined by hundreds thronging the streets in London, where they declared coronavirus was a ‘hoax’ invented to establish a ‘new world order’. And 200 more in Paris held an anti-mask rally alongside hundreds more in Berlin.
The angry march comes as Europe prepares to enforce lockdown restrictions to avoid a second wave, as the number of cases recorded kicks up to highs not seen since March.
Pictures show thousands angrily crowding onto the streets in Berlin to demand a reversal of the rules.
The city had banned the demonstration earlier in the week, but a German regional court overruled the decision.
As many as 3,000 police officers were deployed to disperse the protesters after they failed to wear masks and maintain social distancing, in breach of guidelines.
‘Unfortunately, we have no other option’, Berlin police said on Twitter, adding that they had failed to comply with the safety conditions of the march.
Many were dispersed peacefully, although there was conflict when a construction container was set on fire and some roads were briefly blocked.
Until now Germany has managed the coronavirus crisis better than many of its European counterparts, with rigorous testing helping to hold down infections and deaths.
But new daily infections have accelerated in recent weeks, as in much of the world. Germany recorded 1,571 new cases yesterday, the highest figure since 22 August, when 2,000 were declared.
On Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to keep up their guard against the virus.
‘This is a serious matter, as serious as it’s ever been, and you need to carry on taking it seriously,’ she said.
In London, several hundred demonstrators gathered in Trafalgar Square calling coronavirus a hoax and demanding an end to lockdown restrictions.
Many carried banners saying ‘Fake News’, or ‘Masks are Muzzles’ and rejecting any mandatory vaccination programmes.
The virus has killed more than 40,000 people in Britain.