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Doors closed: Galeria Kaufhof at Alexanderplatz.

© Kay Nietfeld/dpa


Coronavirus Crisis in Berlin: Stores and shops closed – but what about the playgrounds?

A new hospital, how to help others and enjoy music safely at home: Tagesspiegel's Checkpoint newsletter updates you on the Coronavirus in Berlin.

Tagesspiegel's newsletter Checkpoint runs from Monday till Saturday and brings you the latest news at 6am (learn more about the German edition here). Due to the current Corona Crisis, a translation for Berlin's English speaking community will be provided regularly. Translation: Kathleen Wächter, Lily Coates, Jakob Schlandt

What are you grateful for? Are you usually aware what it is you’re hoping? Would you like the absolute memory? And: Do you consider yourself a good friend?

In his “Diary 1966-1971” Swiss writer Max Frisch composed a series of questions so universal that they can (and should) be answered by every human being. So in view of the Corona stay-at-home-time we thought: how about a Berlin re-edit of this? We ask for your questions from the year 2020 via Email to checkpoint@tagesspiegel.de. We’ll publish the result here in our newsletter. And the answers, well - they can be sought by each and everyone ourselves…

And now to the Coronavirus News of the day…

The Coronavirus has the world both turning faster and standing still. On Tuesday evening, the European Union imposed a travel ban (starting for a period of 30 days). In Germany the number of those infected increased to about 9000 people; Berlin currently counts 383. To be prepared for possible shortages, the Berlin Senate plans to turn the grounds of the Berlin Fair into a Covid-19-hospital, fitting up to 1000 patients. All culture and sport activities will be suspended until mid-April. Hotels and all other accommodation services are not allowed for tourist purposes. 

A majority of shops will be closed as of today, Wednesday, with exceptions for supermarkets and pharmacies, banks, hairdressers, newspaper and bookshops, hardware stores, tradesmen, technicians and funeral homes.

Berlin Will Lift its Sunday Trading Prohibition 

On a regular basis, supermarkets will be open on Sundays. Restaurants are allowed to remain open daily from 6am to 6pm, provided a minimum distance of 1.5 meters between diners is guaranteed. Pick up and delivery services will continue. Metrobusses and Metrotrams run every 10 minutes, all other busses and trams every 20 minutes. As of the coming Monday, the subway will run every 10 minutes. The U55 line will most likely be suspended. 

The Coronavirus Knows No Borders - With One Exception

“The Coronavirus knows no borders, including those between states, therefore a largely harmonised and consistent approach is the aim”, said health senator Dilek Kalayci (SPD) on Tuesday. However, she then defended the Berlin decision to keep 1900 playgrounds open across the city - against the federal government’s recommendation and against most other states in the country that are obeying the closure.

Der Spielplatz im Schlosspark Charlottenburg ist abgesperrt.
Der Spielplatz im Schlosspark Charlottenburg ist abgesperrt.

© Lars Spannagel

“I think you can explain to children”, said Kalayci. But you can’t explain to a virus. And those who were outside on Tuesday could observe: the playgrounds were packed. Except in Mitte, where they are closed. On Wednesday, several other districts followed its example: Reinickendorf, Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Steglitz-Zehlendorf and Spandau also closed their playgrounds, while Pankow, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Lichtenberg intend to keep them open.

It would be desirable to have “a harmonised and consistent approach” in place - in the states as much as federally.

Corona Virus as a threat: petition to evacuate refugees in greek camps

It is only a matter of time before the virus hits the refugee camp in Moria. “There is a threat that these people will be infected, that they will have no humanitarian care and will be left to alone their fate. If the epidemic breaks out in such a camp, it will be almost impossible to break the chain of infection”, write the petition’s initiators at #LeaveNoOneBehind (German).

They demand evacuation of the overcrowded camp and to make available safe accommodation where people are protected from the virus.  German activists, artists and celebrities have signed the petition, amongst them Joko Winterscheidt, Liv Lisa Fries, Carolin Emcke, Igor Levit and Max Czollek. More space for humanity.

The Occupational Union of German Anaesthetists is calling for aid

Meanwhile, the Robert-Koch-Institut has rated the current situation of threat as “high” and advised all hospitals to double their number of beds in intensive care. Alexander Schleppers, director of the Occupational Union of German Anaesthetists appealed to “registered, retired and freelance medical practitioners and colleagues” to support the fight against the virus. “The coming weeks will challenge our health system - especially in acute and intensive medical care. Even though most hospitals (…) have been preparing over recent weeks, there may be shortages in some sectors of medical treatment, foremost in the area of intensive medicine”, reads an email shared with Checkpoint.

The Union is therefore calling upon all members who are not active in the inpatient sector or indispensably bound, to contact the head physicians of nearby hospitals. “Getting in contact early and making arrangements in advance of a further spread of the crisis is key.” We’re thanking you in advance.

Young People, 20 to 29 Years of Age – Stay At Home! 

The best information about which section of the population is infecting itself (and others) the most is currently provided by South Korea and it shows: 30 percent of infections –precisely 2.300 of 8.100 infections– apply to 20 to 29 year olds - more than any other age group.

Indeed, young people don’t fall ill from the virus as frequently as the elderly, but because their level of social contacts is high, they’re contributing heavily to the spread of the virus. Without knowing it, they could be the driving force of the pandemic. Therefore this call goes to all people of my generation: Stay at home. Parties only via webcam.

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Berlin’s biggest party in your living room

The perfect party offering already exists: Berlin’s nightlife and clubs are uniting to “bring to your home the biggest digital club in the world on www.unitedwestream.berlin!” No waiting in line, no dresscodes, no rejection at the door - and most importantly: no virus. Instead, daily DJ-set livestreams and other performances from different clubs.

For some, the chance to finally get in, for others an opportunity to finally stay home (and party in Pyjamas). And for the local club scene, a chance to collect donations for venues, employees and artists who all are effected by the forced closures currently in place.

Show Some Solidarity

Solidarity exists everywhere. Berlin is currently giving its best. The welfare organisation Karuna has started a fundraiser for homeless people effected by the pandemic. https://www.betterplace.org/de/projects/77963-taglich-5-euro-fur-jeden-obdachlosen-berlins-corona-soforthilfe

The initiative Kiezhelden is calling for support of all small Berlin businesses and presents these local shops on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kiezhelden.berlin/  that are open to their customers despite the current constraints.  A group created by Berlin entrepreneur Karsten Kossatz has started a spontaneous help platform to support restaurants, bars, cafés, clubs, shops, hotels, museums etc.

[Going local - have you heard about our weekly newsletters, one for each of Berlin's twelve districts? Of course, they cover the way how your neighbourhood deals with the virus and its consequences. Get them here for free, but in German: leute.tagesspiegel.de]

The idea: regulars can buy vouchers and help their favourite places to remain solvent. Those vouchers can be redeemed later. Affected businesses are invited to register via bitte@helfen.berlin or on the website. A real community thrives in  good times, and reveals its true value in bad times.

What to do for those stuck at home together

Couple therapist Hergen von Huchting has a tip for those who are forced to stay at home together: “The best thing is to arrange for actual retreat spaces early on. So if things are heating up or escalating, one can simply remove oneself to another room, or in an emergency even lock the kitchen door”, he says.

And when things are smoother again: “Each gets a card with a number on it, 10 or 15. And when one feels like it he or she can give the card to the partner, and with that, the gift of time. So the partner gets 15 minutes time to talk about him/herself. The donor sits, listens and says ‘thank you’ in the end. There is no discussing, no justifying. Nothing to fight or argue about. The following day, swap! Then the other one gets the time to say what’s on his/her mind.” 

And a tip for those who are alone

For all those who feel lonely or overwhelmed to cope with their sorrows: The Berlin Archbishop and Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Schlesische Oberlausitz have opened their help lines. Professional counselling (in German) is available from 8am to 6pm at 030/403665885.

Stay Informed! 

And lastly: As the virus spreads across Germany (and beyond), so does a lot of fake information about Covid-19. We’re keeping you informed in two Liveblogs (at the moment in German only) on all current developments both from a) Berlin and Brandenburg and b) Germany and the world.

And sometimes it’s the small things

Last night, a small Thank You echoed through Berlin. In Moabit for example, in Grünau and Kreuzberg. People stood on their balconies at 9pm sharp and - inspired by the Italians - clapped their hands for a 1 minute applause sending their gratitude to all the caretakers, doctors, nurses and health personnel and all the heroes and heroines who are working to provide health and safety for all. Perhaps there will be more today. Would be nice. Show your heart, Berlin.

Worries about the coronavirus COVID 19 are growing in the city, after schools, theatres, universities, bars and clubs will close.
Worries about the coronavirus COVID 19 are growing in the city, after schools, theatres, universities, bars and clubs will close.

© imago images/Emmanuele Contini

Hotlines and Contact Points: Immediate Help in Case of Infection

Berlin Health Senator Kalayci has set up a central corona hotline. It can be reached daily from 8 to 20 o'clock and the phone number is 030/90282828 (it is 0049/30/90282828 in case you call from a line abroad). Because several hundred calls were recently received daily, the hotline staff has been reinforced. Nevertheless, there are still long waiting times in some cases.

If you have slight cold symptoms, it is best to contact a local general practitioner by telephone - recently it has also become possible to take sick leave for up to seven days, the regulation is valid until 5 April. The sick note is then sent by post.

For parents of sick children, there's rules too

In the case of an upper respiratory tract illness, the doctor can certify that the parents are unable to work. Prerequisite: In the last 14 days there must have been demonstrable contact with persons who have fallen ill with the coronavirus or have been in a risk area.

The Senate recommends in principle to be particularly vigilant in the following cases: Anyone who has had contact with a confirmed corona patient in the past two weeks should stay at home and contact the responsible health authority. This also applies if you have been in one of the risk areas defined by the the German epidemic authority RKI in the past weeks (here is an overview) – especially if you have (even slight) symptoms. Comprehensive information from the Senate Health Administration can be found here.

Public health insurance companies have also set up telephone hotlines for enquiries

Barmer, one of the biggest, for example can be reached by calling 0800/8484111 (again, don’t forget to first dial the German country code 0049 and leave out the first 0 in case you call from abroad). DAK, another big insurer, has provided the number 040/325325800 (call at local rate) around the clock. There, doctors and hygiene experts can answer the questions of worried callers. Those insured with other health insurance companies may also contact the two health insurance companies.

Immobile patients

The fire department and the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KV) Berlin started a joint transport service on Wednesday. Between 7 and 22 o'clock this service will take care of patients with severe colds who need a doctor at home or in nursing homes. This service can be reached at 116117 from all German areas.These are the six contact points at hospitals in Berlin.

The following six contact points are open:

  • Charité site Virchow in Wedding (Mittelallee 1; open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus Havelhöhe in Spandau (House 16, Kladower Damm 221, open Mon-Fri 9-20 h)
  • Vivantes Clinic in Prenzlauer Berg (Diesterwegstraße, Mon-Fri 10-19 h, Sat/Sun 10-17 h)
  • Vivantes-Wenckebach-Klinikum in Tempelhof (Albrechtstraße, Mo-Fr 10-19 Uhr, Sa/So 10-17 Uhr)
  • Protestant Hospital Queen Elisabeth Herzberge in Lichtenberg (House 19, Herzbergstraße 79, Mon-Fri: 10-19 h, Sat/Sun 10-17 h), Website
  • DRK-Klinikum Westend in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf (House 10, Spandauer Damm 130, Mon-Fri: 9-15 o'clock)

The following applies to all clinics: Please do not go there just like that, but contact us by telephone first. In the case of the Charité, the two Vivantes Clinics, the Herzberge Clinic and the Westend Clinic, people who suspect an infection should contact the hotline of the Senate Health Administration (Tel. 030/90282828, daily 8-8 o'clock) to find out whether testing for the coronavirus is advisable before visiting.

Anyone wishing to visit the outpatient clinic at the Havelhöhe Hospital is requested to first call the clinic's hotline on Tel. 030/36501-7222. A little patience may be necessary. The hotline is practically "permanently manned", a spokeswoman said on Monday.

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