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Protesters held in clashes across Germany as coronavirus cases rise

Taking the sting: A demonstrator winces as police use pepper spray during rally at Berlin’s  Alexanderplatz on Saturday PICTURE: AP

HUNDREDS of protesters have battled with riot police in Germany as rallies against lockdown restrictions plunged into violence.

It came as the number of new infections began to rise again with 1,251 new cases and 147 deaths recorded over a 24-hour period.

In Berlin, 86 people were detained after bottles were thrown at police on Alexanderplatz, while another 45 arrests were made amid clashes in front of the Reichstag building. Two officers were hurt.

Seized: Riot police lead a hooded man away PICTURE: GETTY

Police in Dortmund said a man attacked a TV crew during a protest — the third such incident in Germany in a fortnight. A 23-year-old was arrested.

In Cologne, senior officers expressed outrage that some protesters urged shoppers to remove their masks when entering stores.

‘It seems like these people still haven’t understood that it’s not just about their health but also the lives of others,’ the city’s police chief said.

Bound over: A protester is held down as clashes break out over restrictions in Berlin PICTURE: AP

Despite the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions, protests have swelled, bringing together far-right groups, minor celebrities and people who believe the virus is harmless or part of a conspiracy.

Germany, which pushed daily new infections below 1,000 at one stage, has seen regional increases in cases linked to slaughterhouses and nursing homes. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 states last week cleared the way for restaurants, hotels and remaining stores to reopen. The Bundesliga football season is due to resume on Saturday, despite a number of players testing positive for the virus.

France, which has a similar number of infections to Germany but a far higher death toll, which rose by 70 yesterday to 26,380, is also letting some younger students return to school today.

Residents in some Spanish regions can enjoy limited seating at bars, restaurants and other public places from today but Madrid and Barcelona will remain shut down.

Spain’s health minister reported 143 new fatalities from the virus yesterday, the lowest daily increase since March 19. The total death toll is 26,621.

Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte said it is too soon to set a date for unrestricted travel as the country reported 165 deaths, taking the total to 30,560. Hotel owners and tour operators which depend heavily on the summer holiday season are pressing to know when people can travel across the country.