German health minister warns of growing ‘pandemic extremism’

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn has called for an “intervention against hate” after the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old petrol station employee in an argument about mask wearing at the weekend.

After 18 tough months for society, tensions should not be allowed to turn into divisions, the conservative politician said in Berlin on Wednesday. “That is why we should clearly and resolutely say no to any form of pandemic extremism.”

Spahn said he was shocked by the crime in the western German town of Idar-Oberstein, adding that it had made him “not just sad, but also angry.”

The “cold-blooded murder” had not simply been committed in the heat of the moment, Spahn said, but was related to the hatred and anger that has spread in Germany via social media.

Even at demonstrations, terms like “enemy of the people” were commonly shouted, Spahn noted, saying that “words eventually turn into deeds.”

A 49-year-old German is in custody on suspicion of murder. He is accused of shooting the 20-year-old petrol station cashier in the head on Saturday. The cashier apparently told the man twice that masks were compulsory.

While there obviously needed to be expressions of protest in a democracy, Spahn argued, people should weigh their words carefully and stand up in the face of hatred and conspiracy theories and say “No, this far and no further.”

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