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Running: Really the only thing you still can do outside of your home.
© Kay Nietfeld/dpa

Fighting the Coronavirus: Berlin in Dire Need of Protective Gear, As the City Adapts to Current Bans

The Federal Government’s 122.5 billion Euros aid package is on the way. Police on the streets (and in supermarkets), strategies to cope, and how to help others.

Monday to Friday at around 11am, an English translation of Checkpoint, Tagesspiegel's daily Berlin newsletter, will be provided on the Tagesspiegel website. We will update you on all relevant Coronavirus and Berlin news for free. Please recommend the English Checkpoint to your friends, colleagues, fellow students, and all non-native speakers who live in the city (learn more about the German edition here). Translation: Kathleen Wächter, Lily Coates

Berlin is standing still. As it must. Yesterday, 300 police officers were on duty to ensure the contact ban ordered by the Senate is being respected.

The report: 145 places (and some groups of people) were checked upon, 37 were closed and 43 criminal investigations initiated. “Almost everyone in our city adheres to the regulations, accepts the necessary and sometimes very severe restrictions, shows solidarity and responsibility”, police spokesman Thilo Cablitz told Checkpoint last night.

But: there remain some individuals who appear to be unbothered. “A virus doesn’t care if it’s nine out of ten who protect themselves and others. One irresponsible person is enough to cause damage and in the worst case, could cost many lives. In order to avoid this, we are taking to the streets to follow up with infringements for those who still don’t want to get it”. Penalties include fines and imprisonment.

The Corona Status Quo

Germany now counts 31,906 people infected with the Coronavirus. Berlin’s infections stand at 1,219, 47 of whom are being treated in hospitalised isolation and 22 in intensive care. Two Berliners (70 and 95 years old) have died.

Health Minister Dilek Kalayci requested that all residents older than 70 years adopt self-quarantine measures. “Distancing is the most effective protection from the Coronavirus infection. The help of friends, relatives and neighbors is now needed in order to assist with provision and care, always keeping a minimum distance of 1.5 metres. You can remain social even while keeping your distance.”

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Berlin Supermarket Closed Due to Overcrowding

Seems the people in Schmargendorf have not comprehended the concept of 1.5 metres distance (Berliner A – 1.5 metres – Berliner B – 1.5 metres – Berliner C). Police were called three times on Monday because the Edeka in Berkaer Street was overfilled and no space was kept between shoppers. As those inside appeared to have only themselves in mind, police officers at one point took over the door. The supermarket owner found this stupid and closed the store. There will be a new attempt to open again today. Hopefully among the assortment: brains and heart.

More Space on Bike Lanes?

There’s too little space for too many people. Currently also a problem for public transport. In response, the BVG will get more trains on the tracks as of today. Special vehicles will be sent if CCTV shows busy waiting platforms. What else could be done? Let’s look at how the others do it: The Mayor in Colombia’s capital Bogotá passed a temporary decree in order to bring ease into public transport by turning 117 kilometers into bike lanes from 6am to 7.30pm. How about a copy+paste, Berlin? “We’re discussing this”, wrote Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain’s district mayor Monika Herrmann on Twitter. It’s not so much a question of “if”, but of “how”.

Warschauer Straße soon to become a single bike lane? At least that’s what Kreuzberg mayor Monika Hermann discusses.
Warschauer Straße soon to become a single bike lane? At least that’s what Kreuzberg mayor Monika Hermann discusses.
© Emmanuele Contini/imago images

Berlin in Need of Protection Gear

How can we get urgently needed protection gear to medical practices and clinics? The Federal Ministry of Health promised masks on Monday, however only 8,000 were delivered. The Kassenärztliche Vereinigung (KV; Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians) responded with criticism and broke it down in numbers: one mask per practice. Not even the Senate knows when the next delivery can be expected. “Perhaps we haven’t made this clear enough”, the KV writes, “that without this protection, practices will have to close.” Meanwhile in Bavaria: More than 800,000 protective masks and 235,000 bottles of disinfectant was distributed to hospitals and medical practices.

The Federal Government’s “Bazooka”

The “Bazooka” – this is what Federal Minister for Finances Olaf Scholz (SPD, also Deputy Chancellor) calls the Corona Aid Package, announced on Monday. The cabinet has set aside a sum of €122.5 billion to help individuals and businesses. Solo entrepreneurs and small businesses are set to receive financial aid of €9,000 to €15,000.

Further decisions were made on Kurzarbeitergeld (short-time work compensation) and protection against eviction for renters who cannot pay their rent due to a cut in income stream. Parents who can’t go to work because their children need to be cared for at home due to Kindergarten and school closures shall receive a monthly state compensation of €2,016.

At the same time, in an open letter to Berlin’s mayor, 159 restaurant owners have called for compensation for damages and losses resulting from the Corona crisis. “If we don’t receive access to financial aid as easily and as quickly as possible, many of our staff and colleagues will not be able to make it through April”.

He called it a “bazooka:” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz presenting the supplementary budget for the German economy.
He called it a “bazooka:” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz presenting the supplementary budget for the German economy.
© Michael Sohn/REUTERS

Tips to Cope with Everyday Angst 

This current situation is a pack of exceptional circumstances and is asking a lot of us. To cope with the fear that can naturally come with it, the German Association for Psychology has put together a list of 5 tips. 

1. Stay informed - but the right way! Use trustworthy sources of information and avoid an excessive consumption of media. 

2. Design the day in a positive way. Routines help to keep an inner stability, so try to eat and sleep at the same time each day. 

3. Exchange and help one another: A call, a message or letter can mean a lot and send an important message: “You are not alone”.

4. Accept negative feelings and support the positive ones. From a psychiatric-psychotherapeutic standpoint, allow your emotions of being overwhelmed, of stress and sorrow. At the same time, one can try and aim to concentrate on what creates positive feelings, like the coffee in the morning or listening to music. 

5. If you feel very unwell: seek professional help!

Where You Can Help Others in Need

If you would like to help somehow, our colleague Robert Klages has put together an overview of the “donation fences” for those homeless and in need (feel free to check and add): 

Neukölln: Herrfurthstraße/ Weisestraße, Siegfriedstraße/ Hermannstraße, Reuterstraße/ Weserstraße, Richardplatz/ Schudomastraße, Columbiadamm/ Fontanestraße.

Wedding: Ruheplatzstraße/ Schulstraße, U Osloer Straße.

Pankow: Dänenstraße/ Schönhauser Alle, S-Landsberger Allee.

Mitte: corner Elisabethkirchstraße / Platz an der Anna-Louisa-Karsch-Straße / Turmstraße (between Jagowstraße and Bochumer Straße) .

Kreuzberg: Schönleinstraße/Zickenplatz, Mehringplatz, U-Kottbusser Tor, Adalbertstraße, Bethaniendamm, Heinrichplatz.

Moabit: Ottopark (between Bochumerstraße and Elberfelderstraße).

Friedrichshain: Wismarplatz, Boxhagener Platz, Forckenbeck Platz. 

Please spread, participate and add information. Let’s show our solidarity, Berlin!

Deserted city squares, police patrolling the streets: The new normal in Germany’s capital.
Deserted city squares, police patrolling the streets: The new normal in Germany’s capital.
© Michael Kappeler/dpa

Germans Stranded Abroad

Although the Government has flown 120,000 travellers back to Germany, more than 80,000 are still waiting to come home. Checkpoint reader Mechthild is stranded with a small group of fellow travellers on Bohol island in the Philippines. From there, she needs to get to the international airport on the neighboring island of Cebu, where all planned return flights are cancelled for the time being.

"The German Government is working hard on new alternatives", the embassy's website says. “I am shocked and speechless”, Mechthild writes. She had been advised to buy a ticket herself. The cost is around €2,000, but there is no guarantee the flights won’t be cancelled. Pandemic chaos in paradise. 

A Chance for the Construction Sector

“Get those orders out”, is the current request from the Building Trade Association. On Monday, the signal came from several districts that the almost empty schools could facilitate speedy construction. At the same time, construction companies that have lost orders due to the current rent cap as well as the corona crisis are offering their services. If not now, then when? 

Rooms for Rent in Berlin I

The freshly built Student Housing Village in Schlachtensee (built according to sustainable principles!) has free spaces due to cancellations from foreign students. Students, this is your chance for a room – starting at €300! Applications open for students of all universities www.studentendorf.berlin.

More Rooms Available II

There is a prediction that more rooms and flats could return to the residential rental market in the form of unused AirBnB lodgings. According to an Irish rental agency, flats and room offers have gone up 64 percent in Dublin since the outbreak of Coronavirus. As it happens, Berlin has more than 26,500 official AirBnB lodgings (as of 2018).

The Right Are Arming Up

In Brandenburg, four men were arrested after police received a tip from Austria. They were found to be in possession of machine pistols, revolvers, grenades, ammunition, fuses and a bazooka from the Second World War.

In addition, Wehrmacht steel helmets and ashtrays with SS runes were found on a 27-year-old. All men made extensive confessions upon their arrest. Talking with right-wing extremists, the successful way.

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