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    Arsonists throw petrol bombs at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute

    Arsonists throw petrol bombs at Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, which oversees country’s coronavirus response

    • A window was destroyed and walls discoloured during Sunday’s arson attack
    • Berlin police are now investigating whether the attack was politically motivated
    • The German capital has seen some angry protests against the lockdown rules 

    Arsonists threw petrol bombs on Sunday at the offices of the German public health institute which manages the country’s coronavirus response, police have revealed. 

    A window was destroyed and walls blackened in the mysterious attack on the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin on Sunday morning, although nobody was injured. 

    Berlin police are now investigating whether the attack was politically motivated, with the RKI in the spotlight like never before because of the pandemic. 

    While Germans have generally complied with health restrictions, Berlin has seen a handful of angry protests against lockdown rules. 

    A broken window and blackened facade at the Robert Koch Institute’s offices in Berlin on Sunday after a mysterious arson attack 

    Unknown arsonists attacked the RKI's offices (pictured) with police now investigating whether their actions were politically motivated

    Unknown arsonists attacked the RKI’s offices (pictured) with police now investigating whether their actions were politically motivated 

    Authorities said a security guard had spotted people throwing bottles full of flammable liquid at the facade of the building. 

    The guard was quickly able to extinguish the flames, but the attackers got away and have not yet been identified.   

    Criminal investigators have taken over the probe because of the suspicion that the attack may have been politically motivated.

    The RKI keeps track of the outbreak in Germany, publishing daily infection figures, and also advises the government and the public on disease control measures.  

    It is headed by Lothar Wieler who gives regular press conferences and, alongside Angela Merkel, has become the face of Germany’s response to the crisis. 

    The UK government has said that it wants to learn from the RKI as it plans to scrap Public Health England and replace it with a new health institute. 

    In a speech in August, UK health secretary Matt Hancock praised the RKI for its ‘huge primary focus on pandemic response’. 

    Germany’s response has been less politically charged than in some countries, and the country’s infection and death rates are lower than in the other major economies of Western Europe. 

    Berlin has seen a handful of angry protests against lockdown measures, including one incident in August where protesters came close to the Reichstag building (pictured)

    Berlin has seen a handful of angry protests against lockdown measures, including one incident in August where protesters came close to the Reichstag building (pictured) 

    A poll last month showed a 72 per cent approval rating for Merkel and 60 per cent approval for health minister Jens Spahn. 

    However, cases have been rising sharply again recently, with 71,500 new infections in the last week compared to 41,000 the week before.  

    While most Germans have supported public health restrictions, thousands have also gathered to protest the countermeasures in cities including Berlin. 

    The marches have attracted a mixed crowd of civil rights activists and people who oppose vaccinations, as well as far-right groups. 

    One protest in August spilled over into angry scenes outside Germany’s parliament building, the Reichstag, with police forced to stop protesters storming the building.

    Demonstrators broke through a barricade to access the steps of the Reichstag, although they did not get inside the building itself.  

    Some 3,000 far-right sympathisers and extremists were among the tens of thousands of protesters on that occasion, according to Berlin’s interior minister. 

    The refurbished Reichstag is seen as a symbol of German unity after the building lay little-used during the Cold War. 

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