• Latest News on the Spread of Coronavirus in Berlin, provided by Tagesspiegel’s Checkpoint Newsletter

New Measures Against Coronavirus : Berlin Spared From Strict Lockdown

Outings of up to two are still allowed. Hairdressers close, hardware stores remain open. Chancellor Merkel in quarantine. Your daily Coronavirus update by Tagesspiegel Checkpoint.

Kathleen Wächter Lily Coats
Chancellery without chancellor. After contact with an infected doctor, Angela Merkel went into home isolation on Sunday.
Chancellery without chancellor. After contact with an infected doctor, Angela Merkel went into home isolation on Sunday.Foto: Kay Nietfeld/dpa

From now on, excerpts from Checkpoint, Tagesspiegel's daily Berlin newsletter, will be provided in English. You can find it Monday through Friday from 11a.m 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 of German who live in the city (learn more about the German edition here). Translation: Kathleen Wächter, Lily Coates

This weekend, Germans who went outside were on parole. This was especially true for Berlin, where misbehaviour is often part of the local colour. It may have been late-breaking insight and a bit of the Siberian wind that finally brought most of the city to their senses and distance. On Sunday, the police reported significantly improved discipline.

Let’s assume it will remain this way, as all policy-makers up to chancellor Merkel signaled severe punishments if the new rules should be violated. “Show your reason and heart”, said Merkel after her consultation with the state heads. It was her last public appearance before she herself began working from home: she had been examined by a doctor who later tested positive for the Coronavirus.  

Berlin Mayor Müller Declares His Position on ZDF—and Avoids a Lockdown

During the news show “Heute Journal”, host Marietta Slomka challenged Müller with tough questions over the contradictory chaos within Berlin’s different districts (some playgrounds open, others closed) and coalition (health senator Dilek Kalayci in support of lock down, others against it). But Müller seems to belong to those who wanted to spare Berlin, which had already become cramped, from being under house arrest - keyword: social consequences. The contact numbers of childrens’ emergency centres and domestic violence protection services have been mentioned more regularly in recent days for a reason.

Berlin’s version of the current regulations allows for people to go outside, with only one other person, unless it’s members of their own family or flat mates. A minimum of 1.5m distance applies everywhere and carrying ID is compulsory. Gardening, sport and walks are allowed. For now, this rule applies for the coming two weeks. 

Hairdressers Forced to Close, Hardware Stores Remain Open

While the “contact ban” is imposed for at least two weeks, all other rules apply for four. A new decision means that hairdressers will have to close. Spätis and bike shops are allowed to stay open as well as opticians, audiologists, hardware stores and weekly produce markets. Further changes may be adjusted if required. Whether all of this is conclusive, remains to be seen.

Just last week, the major risk group was hitting the hardware stores in large numbers while families were already forced inside tiny apartments, playgrounds were closed and much of the public space is occupied by cars. The question of how to prevent a social catastrophe in addition to the inevitable economic one is likely to become more urgent every day.

Thousands Return Unchecked From Egypt to Berlin

Germanywide, 24,000 people are currently infected with the Coronavirus (status Sunday evening). 92 have died, 266 have recovered. In Berlin, there are 1100 registered infections, although the numbers are thought to be significantly higher, as seven of the city’s 12 district offices had not transferred their data to the senate in time by Sunday evening, according to “Morgenpost”.

Moreover, up until Friday about 6000 travelers from Egypt returned to TXL and SXF without any controls, according to “Berliner Zeitung”. In view of a 3 – 14 day incubation time, it is foreseeable that the infection curve will raise dramatically into April and in the absence of new evidence, any fundamental discussions on the glaring limitations will, by then, likely be superfluous.

Second Death in Berlin Confirmed

On Monday, another fatal case of Covid-19 in Berlin had been confirmed. The deceased was 70 years old. This was the second death related to the Corona pandemic in Germany’s capital. In the end of last week, a 95-year-old with multiple pre-existing conditions had also died from the Coronavirus disease. With that, the country’s overall death toll rises to 87.

Rescue Personnel and Doctors Increasingly Affected

In recent days, thankyou messages addressed to those working in the health sector have been left at various hospitals and even on a bridge above the A100 freeway (two had to be taken down by police as they weren’t secure). As Vivantes Clinics show, rescue service resources are already beginning to shrink. Against the recommendations by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the clinic’s personnel will not go into quarantine after having been in contact with infected, but will continue working in protection gear. Fire services are also showing growing cracks: Seven firefighters have tested positive and 123 are currently contained in quarantine. And: rescue personnel is now advised to reuse protective masks multiple times.

Medical staff members walk to their Coronavirus test center set up outside a doctor’s office at Berlin’s Reinickendorf district.
Medical staff members walk to their Coronavirus test center set up outside a doctor’s office at Berlin’s Reinickendorf district.Foto: Fabrizio Bensch/REUTERS

Stricter Speed Limits to Avoid Accidents and Injuries?

A considerable part of rescue services are bound up with the care of accident victims from road traffic. In 2019, 18,000 Berlin casualties were treated not only by the police but also medical personnel, with 2,500 severely injured. That makes seven a day who require hospital stays. Six of those could be avoided if all drove more reasonably. Countrywide, the number of injured is 400,000 which translates to an accident every 80 seconds. This could be the right time to rethink stricter speed limits, also limiting the danger for pedestrians and bike riders. When it comes to road safety, there is a world of difference between 30 km/h (car stops after 13 metres) and 50 km/h (driver only starts braking after 13 metres).

“Donation Fences” and Neighborhood Help Initiatives on the Rise

While the federal government has a rescue package of over €500,000,000,000 Euro underway today, and also a supplementary budget of €150,000,000,000 according to the ZDF, millions are still fearing for their existence. Those who had too little already before the crisis now suffer acute deficiency, as the “Tafeln” (help initiatives providing food) are only partially functioning these days. That’s why neighbourly help is the more important, like at Hermannplatz station, where “donation fences” have been started. It is worth keeping an eye out for local initiatives both on- and offline in order to actively help within your neighbourhood. The online platform nebenan.de already speaks of a wave of solidarity. Even more low-threshold is a note on the front door or in the neighbour's mailbox, for example, to save risk groups the trip to the supermarket. 

Some Shops Have Prepared, Others Haven’t

Those stores that are very likely turning into district meeting point No.1 have reacted very differently to the new situation. While a Treptow Lidl has begun protecting its cashier staff behind plexiglass and keeping customers at a distance by using pallets and markings, one Lichterfelde reader reported that his local Aldi has done zero. And that when he suggested to the cashier to wear gloves, he was told he was free to go line up elsewhere.

In contrast, the Rewe for example on Ernststraße in Tegel has launched “exclusive opening hours for the everyday heroes in the Corona crisis”: Tue/Thu from 7am to 9am. May the plan work, which elsewhere has failed because of the egoism of non-heroes.

Keep your distance. Berlin supermarkets are taking measures to lower infection rate.
Keep your distance. Berlin supermarkets are taking measures to lower infection rate.Foto: lexander Blum/dpa

No Risk of Infection From Newsprint

The association of publishers, BDZV, has addressed the question of whether Coronavirus can be spread via newspapers. The answer, according to the State Institute for Risk Assessment and the state’s chief virologist Christian Drosten: no such case is known, and dry surfaces are generally not suited to the transmission of the virus. This applies both to newsprint and banknotes. Nevertheless, paragraph 1 of the precaution naturally applies: don’t forget to wash hands! 

Economists Give Tips for Working From Home 

Now that the Tagesspiegel segment “Berlin Economy” (published weekdays) is produced from the home office, a new series is dedicated to exactly that: how to make it in the home office. In the premiere, Stefan Franzke, Berlin Partner CEO has plenty of experience working from home and offers tips like this one: dress up so you’re aware you aren’t on holidays but on duty. Yes, insight into other peoples realities has always been part of the pleasure being a journalist.

Police Cheer People up During Curfew 

We will probably see more of the Police now, when we’re are outside or at our windows. And perhaps we can expect scenes like those from our European neighbours, in Brussels for example, where a patrol car was observed playing the chanson “Reste à la maison, même s'il y a le printemps qui chante” through their loudspeakers (“Stay at home, even though the spring is singing”).

Local police in Algaida (Mallorca, Spain) played a serenade and danced for the residents before they left in an electric car (by the way). It’s time someone came up with an international hashtag for these sweet videos. They’re like medicine during the Corona curfew and like the daily online evening concerts, they lift the spirits.

No Relief for the City’s Understaffed Police

Berlin Police are experiencing severe overtime. At the end of last year, 1.9 million extra hours were clocked, according to “Morgenpost”, an increase of 200,000 hours within 6 months and more than 500,000 compared to autumn 2018. Doesn’t look like there is any sign of relief.

The cherry blossoms whisper: Spring is coming soon.
The cherry blossoms whisper: Spring is coming soon.Foto: Paul Zinken/dpa

The Poetic Awakening of Spring

Checkpoint readers, you’re awesome! Almost 20 springtime poems were sent in, remember we did a call for entries last Friday? Two of them in English, several written by kids and generally wonderful to read. Thank you very much! The Jury has had a tough time deciding, but after hour-long deliberations at the table in the kids’ room (the jury consisted of the 8 y.o. daughter of today’s Checkpoint author) two winners were chosen. 

Two German entries made the race of words (and won a magical glass snow dome) and we’ll leave them in here, why not? Now is as good a time as any to try out your German. Find the English contributions afterwards (however, they won’t come with the prize, sorry!)

Sonnenschein und laue Lüfte
Krokusse und Blütendüfte
Grüne Zweige lassen spüren:
Die Natur hat keine Viren!
Wenn rundum die Knospen krachen
Lasst uns halt zu Hause lachen
Traurigsein hat keinen Zweck –
Frühling haut Corona weg!
(Manfred Füger)

Frühling Frühling Frühling
Und wir sind zu Haus.
Frühling Frühling Frühling
Wir sollen ja nicht raus.
Frühling Frühling Frühling
Lesen, Filme gucken,
Schulaufgaben, Schmaus.
Frühling Frühling Frühling
Und jeden Tag „Die Maus“! 
(Bruno (7) und Heike Knobloch)

Here also two of the English contributions:

When the first flower of spring blooms
My heart wants a cherry lollipop
How spring reminds me of good smells
I eat ice cream and visit farm of maize crop.
(Fatima Bruch)

With a promise of Summer's embrace, 
Spring arrives carrying wrapped packages of hope. 
On Spring's warm sweet breath, seeds and pollen float, 
Aswell as the wings of birds that return, 
to sing ecouragement to our hearts.
(JP Cilliers)

Wishing you a good and healthy start to the week!

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