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Tourist terror as iconic Berlin balloon thrashed by winds

Sightseers in the German capital feared for their lives on Tuesday afternoon when the "Die Welt" balloon swayed out of control in strong winds.

Tourist terror as iconic Berlin balloon thrashed by winds
The Die Welt balloon swaying in the wind. Photo: DPA

The Die Welt newspaper's hot air balloon is an iconic part of the Berlin skyline. It floats up to a height of 150 metres from a site near Checkpoint Charlie in the centre of Berlin, while always staying moored to the ground, giving visitors a spectacular view of the city.

But on Tuesday 20 tourists got the fright of their lives when the balloon got caught in strong winds. Some of them had to lie on the floor for 20 minutes before they finally reached safety.

According to eyewitnesses, people on board screamed as the balloon swayed around in the gusts.

Peter W., one of the passengers, told Tagesspiegel that “it felt like when an airplane suddenly drops.”

He insisted though that he had remained calm, saying he “trusted the technology”.

Of the 20 people on board, 11 of them were school children from Norway, along with their teacher, as well as six Germans and a pilot, Bild reports.

A blast of wind damaged the balloon when it had reached a height of 110 metres, as bad weather moved in against the expectations of the company which runs the tourist attraction.

The pilot ordered the guests to lie down on the floor. Meanwhile the ground team tried to bring the balloon safely back down to earth.

But at first they they failed to get it under control, and it swayed towards buildings in the vicinity.

“I thought it was going to crash into the roof of a house,” Marcel Lau, a passerby who witnessed the scene, told Bild.

Eventually the balloon was brought back to earth and the passengers all escaped without physical injury.

But the crying school children collapsed on the pavement under the shock of the experience.

According to Air Service Berlin, the company that manages the balloon, the passengers were never in danger.

“The pilot needed to stabilize the balloon in order to bring it safely to ground,” a spokesperson told Bild.

Berlin police seem to have a different view of the matter and have banned the balloon from flying until further notice.

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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