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World News

Berlin court suspends bar curfew in backlash against anti-virus measures

BERLIN (Reuters) - A Berlin court on Friday suspended a late-night curfew on bars and restaurants, following other courts in overturning government-imposed measures meant to contain the further spread of the coronavirus.

FILE PHOTO: An empty table is pictured before the late-night curfew due to restrictions against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as city-wide bars and restaurants have to close at 11pm (2100 GMT) until 6am (0400 GMT), in Berlin, Germany, October 14, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Berlin’s local government had imposed the 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew a week ago to tackle surging numbers of new infections.

“The curfew has been suspended for the time being as the court considers it disproportionate in view of other measures taken to fight the pandemic,” a spokesman for the administrative court in Berlin said.

The court said there was no evidence bars and restaurants that stick with existing rules on mask-wearing and social distancing contributed to any increase in infection rates.

The ruling was in response to legal action brought by 11 restaurant owners who contested the curfew, but not a ban on the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m.

Berlin’s local government appealed against the ruling to the Berlin-Brandenburg higher administrative court, and also sought an interim injunction to prevent just the 11 restaurants staying open beyond 11 p.m., pending a decision on the appeal.

“The 1st Senate of the Higher Administrative Court did not grant the application for the issuance of the requested interim injunction,” the higher court said in a statement.

Several other German cities, including financial hub Frankfurt, have also imposed a curfew on bars and restaurants, and Germany’s states agreed with Chancellor Angela Merkel this week that such measures should be automatic as soon as infection rates in any area exceed 50 per 100,000 residents over a week.

Germany, like other countries across Europe, is dealing with a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported a daily increase by more than 7,300 new cases on Friday.

Most of Germany’s states recently agreed that residents of areas with high infection rates should not be allowed to stay in hotels in other parts of the country to contain the spread of the virus during autumn school holidays.

But opposition has grown in recent days, and courts in the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Saxony, Lower Saxony and Saarland have overturned that lodging ban. In Bavaria, it will expire on Friday, a regional government spokesman said.

Reporting by Holger Hansen, Kirsti Knolle and Paul Carrel; Editing by Alex Richardson and Catherine Evans

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