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Car crashes into gates of Angela Merkel's office

A car crashed into the gates of Angela Merkel's office in Berlin today, hours before the German chancellor was due to discuss extending the coronavirus lockdown.

The Volkswagen estate car was emblazoned with painted messages raging at 'globalisation policies' and 'you damn murderers of children and old people'. 

The driver was arrested and police were searching the car with sniffer dogs after it hit the perimeter gates, before it was driven away by the fire brigade. 

There were no reports of casualties and the collision appeared to have caused little damage, while police were investigating but did not suspect an extremist attack. 

Bizarrely, the vehicle appeared to be exactly the same one which had performed an almost identical stunt in 2014 - on that occasion bearing one slogan about climate change and another saying 'Nicole, I love you'.    

A car crashed into the gates of German chancellor Angela Merkel's office in Berlin today 

A man in a wheelchair, believed to be the driver of the car, was escorted by police and firefighters following the collision in Berlin 

The man was restrained by police at the perimeter of the chancellor's office in Berlin today

The painted message on this side of the car called for an end to 'globalisation policies'  

The message on the other side raged at 'you damn murderers of children and old people' 

The car had licence plates from the North Rhine-Westphalia area of Lippe, while the driver, who appeared to be in late middle age, was taken away in a wheelchair by federal police.

The metal gate to the chancellery appeared slightly bent but the damage was minor. 

'We are establishing if the driver deliberately drove against [the gate],' Berlin police said on Twitter. 'He has been taken into custody.' 

Rescue crews on the scene confirmed the man was being treated in an ambulance that remained in front of the building. 

A 48-year-old man was arrested after the 2014 incident, involving what appeared to be the same car with the same numberplate, but it was not confirmed whether today's driver was the same person. 

Europe is on high alert after militants killed eight people in Paris, Nice and Vienna in recent weeks, but Berlin police said today they did not suspect a similar attack.  

The chancellery, a post-modernist structure set across a square from the Reichstag building that houses Germany's parliament, is well set back from any main roads.

'The chancellor, other members of the government and people working in the chancellery were not in danger at any time,' Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said. 

Merkel, who marked 15 years in power on Sunday, was scheduled to host a meeting with Germany's 16 state governors today and was expected to extend lockdown measures well into December. 

Lockdown measures have drawn protests in Berlin that have attracted an assortment of conspiracy theorists, right-wing extremists and far-left activists.

While Germany's death rate is lower than in most of Western Europe, infections have proved stubbornly high even as other countries are seeing a decline in new cases. 

Health authorities today announced a record jump of 410 new deaths, while infections were higher than a week ago with 18,633 new cases.  

2014: This photo from February 2014 shows what appears to be the same car after it bumped into the gate of the chancellery with a message about climate change 

Merkel, pictured ahead of a cabinet meeting today, is expected to approve an extension to lockdown measures when she speaks to the leaders of Germany's 16 states 

Police were searching the car with sniffer dogs after it drove into the main gate 

Police and firefighters were outside the chancellery after a car crashed into the main gate on Wednesday morning 

Germany took in hundreds of sick people from Italy, France and the Netherlands during the first wave, and more recently had patients airlifted in from Belgium. 

But its own intensive care beds are now busier than ever, with 3,700 patients currently in ICU compared to a peak of 2,850 in the spring, and some hospitals are having to cancel other operations. 

While Germany's ICU capacity is considerably higher than in Italy, France or Spain, the number of patients needing it has risen 13-fold in the space of two months.   

Around 6,000 ICU beds are still available, but the inexorable logic of more cases leading to more hospitalisations and deaths is worrying health officials.   

Angela Merkel's spokesman said last week that infection numbers are still 'far, far too high', with cases piling up at a rate of around 18,000 per day. 

'We've essentially only taken the first step, halting the steep, exponential growth and reaching a stabilisation,' he said.  

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