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Watch: Bundestag approves tighter COVID lockdown measures as thousands protest in Berlin

The Bundestag approved the tightening of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday as thousands of protesters descended on Berlin to demonstrate against the measures.

The amendments to the existing Infection Protection Act outlining the epidemiological measures was supported by 342 parliamentarians, the Bundestag press service told Sputnik.

250 lawmakers voted against the hotly contested proposal and 64 abstained. The amendments are due to be approved by the Bundesrat – the legislative body representing the 16 federal states – on Thursday.

The amendments, expected to come into force as early as Saturday, will give the federal government power to impose a national curfew between 10pm and 5am, close schools, and introduce regional restrictions pegged to certain thresholds in COVID rates.

The proposed restrictions, which also affect shop openings and sports, prompted an outcry among citizens who gathered not far from the Brandenburg Gate this morning with flags and placards reading “Peace, freedom, no dictatorship”.

Approximately “8,000 people are estimated” to have taken part in the anti-lockdown rally.

[*Note: in fact more than 40,000 people have taken part]

The police reacted to the peaceful – but reportedly loud and mostly unmasked – demonstrations with pepper spray, according to pictures from the scene.

Some demonstrators were pushed into the nearby park as the area around the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate has remained cordoned off.

According to AFP, tear gas was also fired at demonstrators at some point.

There were about 2,200 officers on duty on the day, as the Berlin Police were reinforced by officers from Germany’s Federal Police and those from several other states across the country.

Giant water cannons were spotted at Brandenburg Gate for the police to use “if necessary”.

According to reports, around 150 people were arrested on the day but these numbers have not been confirmed by the authorities yet.