The head of the German Free Democrats, Christian Lindner, has found himself in a tight spot after hugging a friend in brazen violation of Covid-19 social distancing rules that Germans are still obliged to follow.

The misdeed by the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) leader has been made public by the BZ Berlin daily, which published a photo of him hugging businessman Steffen Goepel in front of one of the city’s most-popular restaurants on Friday evening. To make matters worse, the politician was also seen with his facemask hanging under his chin.

The photo, which in a different time would be considered quite innocent, has since been deleted by the newspaper. But it has sparked a wave of criticism in Germany, where many are tired and angry over protracted coronavirus quarantine measures.

The politician faced a flurry of angry comments on social media as people argued that he apparently considers himself above the rules ordinary Germans have to follow.

just lindner things

Christian #Lindner trifft sich im Nobelrestaurant #Borchardt u.a. mit Immobilenunternehmer und Honorarkonsul von Belarus Steffen #Göpel.Umarmung ohne Maske inklusive.Scheinbar gelten die Abstandsregeln nicht für die Eliten.Wer ist das denn, mit dem sich CL da trifft? (1/7)

The fact that Lindner himself was an ardent opponent of stricter rules advocated by Chancellor Angela Merkel only apparently made things worse. Many drew attention to his own statements, in which he argued that people are quite capable of following social distancing rules on their own without any additional regulation imposed by the government.

“It hurts, when you yourself are the proof that Merkel is somewhat right,” one man wrote.

Auch bitter, wenn DU selbst der Beweis bist, dass Merkel irgendwo recht hat.

Less government , not more – right, @c_lindner ?

The barrage of criticism forced the politician to promptly apologize. The “spontaneous” hug was an “unintentional” mistake stemming from a “lack of concentration,” he conceded, adding that “such things unfortunately happen between friends.”

“I’m only human after all. I am sorry.”

Some accepted his humble apology, telling him “a hug is not a mistake” and that he should not apologize for such things. But others remained unrelenting, arguing that politicians break the rules too often only to apologize and move on as if nothing had happened.

As in many places, the coronavirus lockdown has become quite a hot topic in Germany, where social distancing restrictions have put a strain on the economy and public life. Even though Berlin has initiated a gradual easing of the quarantine by allowing all shops to reopen and Bundesliga soccer games to resume behind closed doors, many Germans apparently believe it is not enough.

As many as 500,000 people applied to attend a protest against the lockdown last week. The police restricted the rally to only 5,000 people, however, citing the very rules that people were planning to demonstrate against. Earlier, more than 130 arrests were made across the country after similar protests ended in unrest as demonstrators threw bottles at police on several occasions.

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