Germany Merkel: Car rams into chancellery gate ahead of Covid decision

A car has been driven into the gates of Angela Merkel’s Federal Chancellery building in Berlin, German police say.

A 54-year-old man was detained but the background to the incident was unclear.

The Volkswagen car had messages daubed in white on both sides. One called for an end to “globalisation politics” while another referred to “you damned killers of children and old people”.

The incident came hours before Mrs Merkel held talks with regional leaders on extending Covid safety measures.

It is not known if she was in the building at the time. Germany’s “lockdown light” is expected to be extended until 20 December and the restrictions have prompted protests from Covid deniers and far-right activists.

However, there were indications that Wednesday morning’s low-speed crash was not related to the protests.

An interior ministry spokesman later confirmed German reports that the man detained had also driven into the gate in February 2014. On that occasion the car had different white slogans daubed on the side. One called for an end to climate change while another read simply: “Nicole, I love you.”

Police said they were trying to establish whether the driver on Wednesday had a psychological condition or a particular motive. A government spokesperson said at no point was there any risk to the chancellor or anyone else.

Mrs Merkel is discussing a draft proposal agreed by Germany’s 16 state premiers to keep hotels and restaurants shut and limit private gatherings to five people (not including children under 14). A special Christmas exemption from 23 December to 1 January would allow gatherings of up to 10 people.

German health officials reported 410 deaths from Covid-19 on Wednesday – the highest daily number since the pandemic began. However, Germany has seen proportionally far fewer fatalities than other Western European countries, with a total of 14,771.

Germany has a large protest movement against Covid-19 measures, including many anti-vaccination activists. Protesters rallied in the centre of Berlin last week close to the parliament building, the Reichstag, before the protest was broken up by police.

Angela Merkel, 66, has just marked 15 years as chancellor and is planning to step down from the post next year. She does not live in the chancellery but instead leads a modest life in a Berlin flat with her husband, Prof Joachim Sauer.

Her Christian Democrat (CDU) party is doing well in the opinion polls, partly because of her handling of the pandemic. The government agreed on Wednesday to hold parliamentary elections on 26 September 2021 but the race to succeed Mrs Merkel as the CDU’s candidate for chancellor is still to run.

The CDU will hold an online congress in January 2021 when they are expected to select a new party leadership.

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