Anger against people from two districts in Germany under new coronavirus lockdowns is "completely unacceptable and disgusting", Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said Friday after reports they are being targeted with insults and vandalism.
"That people from Guetersloh and Warendorf are sometimes insulted, that their cars are scratched, is of course completely unacceptable and disgusting behaviour," Steffen Seibert told a regular government press conference.
"We must treat each other with respect and sympathy, especially in difficult situations," Seibert said, adding that anyone could find themselves suddenly living in a COVID-19 hotspot.
German authorities on Tuesday ordered fresh lockdowns in the two neighbouring districts in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia after a coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse that has infected more than 1,500 workers.
However, of 1,655 tests carried out in the wider population in Guetersloh by Thursday, only three had come back positive, according to local authorities.
Several German states have nevertheless said they will turn away would-be tourists from the affected districts.
A couple from Guetersloh were booted off the Baltic Sea island of Usedom earlier in the week, while Bavaria said its hotels would not be taking bookings from anyone from high-risk areas.
North Rhine-Westphalia state premier Armin Laschet has advised people to get tested for COVID-19 if they wish to travel elsewhere in Germany.
"For those people who are planning a holiday, we recommend that you get tested," he said. "But one thing is not OK: that people from the district of Guetersloh are openly stigmatised."
Germany became the first major EU country to begin easing virus restrictions about seven weeks ago.
It is now counting on contact tracing -- both through human trackers and a new app -- to ensure new infections are isolated.