Some 20,000 protest Germany's virus rules

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More than 20,000 people have gathered for a protest against Germany's coronavirus restrictions in the city of Kassel, with clashes breaking out between police and demonstrators.

Protesters ignored the city's court-approved limit of 6000 participants on Saturday and almost all of them refused to wear a face mask.

Police said the violence broke out after protesters ignored instructions from officers and broke through police barriers.

Officers used pepper spray and batons against the demonstrators, and scuffles with counter-demonstrators were also reported.

Federal police were brought in from other parts of the country and used water cannons and helicopters to keep the crowds under control.

Several people were taken into custody but did not give an exact number.

Many who turned out in Kassel were supporters of the so-called Querdenken (Lateral Thinking) movement, made up of COVID-19 deniers, right-wing activists and anti-vaccination campaigners.

Virus infections have gone up again in Germany in recent weeks and the government is set to decide next week on how to react.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany will have to apply an "emergency brake" to reverse some recent relaxations of restrictions as coronavirus infections accelerate.

Germany's national disease control centre said new infections were growing exponentially as the more contagious COVID-19 variant first detected in the UK has become dominant in the country.

On Saturday, Germany's Robert Koch Institute reported 16,033 new cases and registered 207 additional deaths, bringing the overall death toll to more than 74,000 in Germany.

In Berlin, some 1,800 police officers were on standby for possible riots, but only about 500 protesters assembled at the city's landmark Brandenburg Gate.

Meanwhile, around 1000 citizens came together on Berlin's Unter den Linden boulevard to protest against the far-right demonstration.

There were also anti-lockdown protests in several other European countries on Saturday, including the UK, Austria, Britain, Finland, Romania and Switzerland.

Thousands took the streets in London to protest the UK's lockdown measures, with police arresting 13 people.

- with AP