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BERLIN — Thousands protested Germany’s coronavirus restrictions Saturday in a Berlin demonstration marking what organizers called “the end of the pandemic” — a declaration that comes just as authorities are voicing increasing concerns about an uptick in new infections.

With few masks in sight, a dense crowd marched through downtown Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate.

Protesters who came from across the country held up homemade signs with slogans like “Corona, false alarm,” “We are being forced to wear a muzzle,” “Natural defense instead of vaccination” and “We are the second wave.”

They chanted, “We’re here and we’re loud, because we are being robbed of our freedom!”

Police used bullhorns to chide participants to adhere to social distancing rules and to wear masks, apparently with little success. They tweeted that they drew up a criminal complaint against the rally’s organizer for failing to enforce hygiene rules, then said shortly afterward that the organizer had ended the march.

Police estimated about 17,000 people turned out. The demonstrators were kept apart from counter protesters, some of whom chanted “Nazis out!”

Protesters continued to a subsequent rally on a boulevard running through the city’s Tiergarten park, which police estimated drew 20,000 people. Police declared that event over as organizers again failed to get demonstrators to wear masks or keep their distance.

Protests against anti-virus restrictions in Germany have drawn a variety of attendees, including conspiracy theorists and right-wing populists.

Unlike the U.S., Brazil and Britain, Germany’s government has been praised worldwide for its management of the pandemic. The country’s death toll — just over 9,150 people out of more than 210,670 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday — is five times less than Britain’s, which has a smaller population.

Thousands of demonstrators march through Berlin to protest Germany’s COVID-19 restrictions today.JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images

The German government has been easing lockdown measures since late April but social distancing rules remain, as does a requirement to wear masks on public transit and in shops.

Officials have been warning against complacency as the number of new COVID-19 cases has crept up recently. Amid concerns about residents bringing home infections from summer trips abroad, officials introduced free tests for people entering the country.

Germany’s national disease control center registered 955 new cases Friday, a high figure by recent standards.

“Thousands of #covidiots are celebrating themselves in Berlin as ‘the second wave,’ without distancing, without masks,” tweeted Saskia Esken, a co-leader of the Social Democrats, the junior party in Germany’s governing coalition.

“They are not just endangering our health, they are endangering our success against the pandemic and for the revival of the economy, education and society. Irresponsible!”

News Source: newsbrig.com

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COVID-19 Stimulus Checks: Thousands of Foreigners Sent $1,200 By Accident

Getty The mistake happened because many foreign workers who annually come to the U.S. for seasonal jobs filed their tax forms incorrectly.

Thousands of non-U.S. residents mistakenly received $1,200 checks during the first round of stimulus payments under the coronavirus relief CARES Act, according to NPR.

The accident is a result of foreign workers — who came to the U.S. on temporary work visas for seasonal jobs — incorrectly filing their tax forms, the outlet added. Many of which are now spending their money in their home countries.

Georgia attorney Clayton Cartwright told NPR that non-residents are supposed to file a 1040-NR form, but that some accidentally file a 1040 — commonly used by U.S. taxpayers.

“I would say probably anywhere to a third to a half [of first-time foreign filers] are filing the wrong return,” Cartwright said to the outlet.

He added that online tax services such as Turbo Tax, which is “intended only for U.S. residents,” is likely to make errors in these situations.

NPR reported that one tax preparation firm disclosed that it has clients from “129 countries who mistakenly received stimulus checks, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Nigeria and South Korea.”

It is unclear exactly how much money was sent to the global residents, NPR said.

Here’s what you need to know:

Sprintax Has Amended 5,000 Returns so Far

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The company, which claims to be the only “online system for nonresident federal and state tax returns,” told NPR that it has already amended 5,000 returns for non-residents — “almost 5% of the total federal tax returns it filed last year, according to the company,” NPR wrote.

The outlet added that, “If just 5% of last year’s more than 700,000 student and seasonal workers with F-1 and J-1 visas received a stimulus check in error, that would total $43 million.”

Sprintax Vice President Enda Kelleher explained to NPR that many of the foreign workers did not realize they made a mistake on their returns until they received their stimulus checks this spring.

Now, they’re trying to amend their returns in order to avoid jeopardizing their abilities to return to the U.S.

“We saw a huge number of people contacting us after the first stimulus payment because they said, ‘Hey, I got this check. I never asked for it, I didn’t think I was entitled to it, and how can I correct it?'” he said to NPR.

This is Just the Latest of Coronavirus Relief-Related Mishaps

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The $1,200 stimulus checks sent to the thousands of foreign workers is not the first mishap stemming from coronavirus relief efforts, NPR reported.

The outlet cited the nearly $1.4 billion in stimulus checks that were sent to deceased Americans this past spring.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that, as of April 30 of this year, 1.1 million deceased Americans received stimulus checks.

For the first three batches of payments, the report concluded that the Internal Revenue Service failed to use third-party data to determine if the recipients were still living.  Death records maintained by the Social Security Administration is just one example of a third party.

“As Congress debates another pandemic relief package, it’s considering a second round of payments that would exclude the deceased, but its new bill does not address the problem of $1,200 checks having mistakenly gone to foreign workers in other countries,” NPR added.

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