A group of men have been ordered to leave their houses after they were ordered to wear masks in the streets in the wake of a spate of stabbings and shootings.
The men, who were allegedly wearing masks when they were arrested in the northern German city of Hannover, are now free to go out after a German court ruled that the masks are discriminatory against people with mental health conditions.
“The court concluded that wearing a mask is a form of discrimination against people who have mental illness,” the Hannover prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
“Therefore, the defendants have been given the freedom to leave voluntarily.”
The move came after the city’s health authorities warned the public that masks were being used to intimidate people who might not want to leave.
It’s a problem in Germany, where more than 80% of people live in cities where there is a high proportion of residents who have a mental illness, said Christian Thies, an expert on mental health at the University of Bonn.
He told CNN the masks were a “bad idea” because they were designed to scare people into staying indoors.
This was not a deliberate act, he said.
It was a situation where people are frightened into staying in their homes, he added.
Thies said the masks would be effective because people are often unable to communicate and understand the warning signs.
Thies, who is also director of the University Hospital for Psychiatry in Bonn, said the police had also been reluctant to impose the masks on people because they believed it might be perceived as targeting them.
If it had been the case that these people had a mental disorder, and were trying to avoid going out, they could have done that, he told CNN.
A spokesperson for the Hannovers Health Ministry said the men had been ordered by police to wear a mask while walking their dogs, but the masks had not been removed.
Health officials say the masks could have been used to prevent people from reporting crimes, especially when people live close to each other, or if they were victims of a crime.