• Tagesspiegel Checkpoint’s Daily Coronavirus Update for Berlin’s English-Speaking Community

Spread of Pandemic Continues : Berlin’s Financial Aid Program Increased to €1 Billion

Interminable Waiting Lines for Financial Aid, Delays for Berlin’s Corona Hospital, Bookstores Remain Open.

Kathleen Wächter Lily Coates
Another week of shutdown in Berlin.
Another week of shutdown in Berlin.Foto: Carsten Koall/dpa

From Monday to Friday at around 11am, an English translation of CheckpointTagesspiegel'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

One of the most widely read books these days is Camus’ "The Plague", published in 1947. Some of it sounds frighteningly topical - here an excerpt:
“Is the epidemic spreading too fast?” Rambert asked.
Rieux said it wasn't, in fact the statistical curve was rising less rapidly. The only thing was that the means against the plague were simply not sufficient.
“We lack material,” he said. “In all the armies of the world, the lack of material is generally replaced by human beings. But we also lack people here.”
“Doctors and paramedics came from outside.”
“Yes”, said Rieux. “Ten doctors and about a hundred men. It seems a lot. It's barely enough for the present state of the disease. It will be insufficient if the epidemic spreads.”
So much for and by Albert Camus.

Local bookstores remain open.
Local bookstores remain open.Foto: Kitty Kleist-Heinrich

Save the Books

We’ve heard that the German version of Albert Camus’ “The Plague” is in high demand. And we don’t know yet if state subsidies will be enough to ensure our Kiez bookstores survive this plague. They’re considered indispensable in Berlin (and only in Berlin) – and are therefore allowed to stay open.
Almost all bookstores are offering delivery at the moment, some even by bicycle courier. So: stock up on books! Read that book you’ve always wanted to read (hopefully it isn’t “The Plague”) and allow yourself some escape and distraction from the weight that we probably all feel on our shoulders these days.
But beyond all these concerns, we’re also seeing all the tough work being done everywhere to avoid the worst –both politically and socially– within our communities. It’s impressive to see the solidarity and understanding shown by Berliners these days in dealing with one another and our shared situation.

Billions in Aid for The Economy

Yesterday, the IBB scared Berlin businesses. Those who had applied for crisis loans received the following auto response: “If all the applications currently being processed were approved, the volume would be more than €300 million, but only €100 million has been provided by the state. We are therefore suspending the acceptance of further applications until further notice.” The applications already received, it was said, would be processed as far as possible, but: “On Monday we will have to deactivate this queue.”

The IBB temporarily closed their online applications due to high demands. 
The IBB temporarily closed their online applications due to high demands. Foto: imago images/Stefan Zeitz

Solo entrepreneurs and small businesses who had applied for subsidy kept receiving information on their current position in the queue, i.e.: “111,728 –number of users before you: 46,931”. The given waiting time remained vague: “More than an hour”. Which of course means everything and nothing, and feels quite in line with 23.7.2021, the new date given for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
We called on Ramona Pop, Senator for Economic Affairs, to ask: should businesses and solo entrepreneurs be worried? The Senator promised “there is no reason to panic. The program will not collapse because of inadequate funding” Already this week, more than half a billion is to be paid out and Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz announced: The emergency aid program for the economy will be increased to one billion.

Banks Dodge Social Responsibility

A huge problem for many businesses right now is the behaviour of their own “home” banks, for whom not even the KfW’s (credit institution for reconstruction and development) 90% indemnity against liability is enough to grant much-needed loans. The banks are shirking their responsibility to society; the very same society whose money saved them in the last crisis –which was their fault. It’s disappointing to see such undignified behaviour towards the many small and medium-sized enterprises that are now fighting for survival. The only exception (according to our ears on the ground): Berliner Sparkasse.

Worldwide, Corona Hits Rich and Poor Alike

World news on the Corona crisis is pretty dire –no matter where you look. In the US, leading immunologist Anthony Fauci estimates up to 200,000 deaths as possible. In South Africa, Corona has reached the poorest townships and millions of victims are expected. In India, hundreds of millions who depend on their workplaces for accommodation now don’t know where they should be fleeing in order to escape infection. And in the refugee camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, 25,000 people (in a camp built for 3,000) are looking into the face of imminent catastrophe. For every person that dies here, so too will die a piece of Europe.

Number of Survivors Grows

On the other side, the number of those who’ve survived Covid-19 is also growing ­– and every healthy person gives new hope. That’s why you should watch this 42-second video from an Italian hospital this morning:

Current Corona Figures for Berlin

The official count of Corona-infections in Berlin sits at 2,462. Eleven have died, but 845 of those infected have recovered.

Corona Hospital to Take Longer

The planned Corona Hospital in Berlin will take longer than expected. Project leader Albrecht Broemme announced on March 19th that the hospital would be ready in “20 to 25 days”, but Health Senator Dilek Kalayci is now talking of “April, May”, which would still be fast –hopefully fast enough: Corona won’t sit on a waiting list.

Tegel to Remain Open

Although passenger processing has sunk to a mere 2,500 per day, the airport is set to remain open for the time being. What should be brought to a halt as quickly as possible: squeezing people arriving from places like Doha and London into transfer busses –which is still happening, despite the current requirements for distance.

Tegel airport is not fully closed, however, it does look like it was.
Tegel airport is not fully closed, however, it does look like it was.Foto: Paul Zinken/dpa

The Ordnungsamt in Times of Corona

Parking violations are still a thing –and so are fines. Municipal officers in all districts are still checking on and fining for violations like blocking fire brigade entrances. In some districts, minor offences (like missing parking tickets) may potentially be gotten away with because patrols have been reduced, with many officers on standby or on duty to support the Health Authorities. 

Easy Renewal of Residential Parking Permits 

All districts are currently allowing for easy renewal of residential parking permits. So if your Parking ID expires, just apply online and put a copy of your application behind the windscreen.

Car owners will still get fined, even though the city’s Ordnungsämter have reduced their patrols.
Car owners will still get fined, even though the city’s Ordnungsämter have reduced their patrols.Foto: Wolfram Steinberg/dpa

Berlin’s Small Bike Shops are Networking

If you have to move around, we recommend the bike as your vehicle of choice. Like our bookstores, bicycle stores are considered indispensable –aka systemically relevant– and therefore still open. The smaller shops are now trying to form a stronger connection amongst one another, in order to keep in touch with their customers. We at Checkpoint ring our bike bells in solidarity and send special greetings to the teams at “Fahrer“ and “i:SY”, who supported our Checkpoint bike group so professionally on our symbolic ride to BER airport last year. We hope to see you soon!

Quote of the Day

“We have to make clear that of course one should be allowed to sit on a park bench for 15 minutes.” – Benedict Lux, Spokesperson for the Greens on domestic policy, pleads for a revision of the regulation to contain the Coronavirus. 

Tweet of the Day

“For the first time in 20 years I could sleep with my window open on the weekend, because my district –once a “destination”– is now just a district. The scene is gone.” (@ladyaltona)

Mathe mit Checkpoint

It’s pretty well-known that Berlin has issues with maths. But the crisis is revealing how many people actually struggle to count to three. At least when the sun is shining (which we’re seeing in the parks) or the moon is rising (which is actually always). Here’s an example from police records in the Märkische Quarter:
Three people broke into a supermarket at night… to shop contactlessly? Well, not a good idea. Looks like the social-distancing violation will have to be added to that of breaking & entering.
We wish you a physically-distanced day and foremost, a healthy one. We’ll be back with updates tomorrow. Bis dahin, take care!

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