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STRIKES

IN IMAGES: Who is affected by the public transport strike?

Public transport passengers in Berlin, including those travelling to airports, have been facing disruption on Monday during a full day strike by BVG staff.

IN IMAGES: Who is affected by the public transport strike?
There was overcrowding on S-Bahns services due to the strike. Photo: DPA
The vast majority of underground (U-Bahn) trains, trams and buses are not in operation today during the industrial action by  'Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe' (BVG) employees.
 
 
The strike started in the early morning and was to last for the whole day in the third – and toughest – of the BVG strikes this year. There was a previous half day strike in February, and a strike by bus drivers in March. As well as Berliners, lots of tourists are affected, too.
 
 
Some people joked on social media that the strike might have been a cruel April Fools' Day prank.

Buses and trams remained in depots, while most U-Bahn gates stayed locked, as travellers were forced to find other means of transport to get to work or travel through the city.

 
 
 
 
The strike has created problems for people travelling to Berlin's airports, especially Tegel, which is difficult to reach without BVG transport. The Berlin Airport Service said it would offer an irregular emergency shuttle service from Jungfernheide S-Bahn station.
 
But many people walked the route to Tegel, in the north of the city.
The Berlin Airport Service said the walking route to Tegel would take about 40 minutes.
Others were creative with their forms of transport, such as this man who got on his skateboard to get to the airport.

Lots of people walked to work in the sunshine, got on their bike – or even ran to get some exercise in.

“Commuting to the job and doing exercise,” said this Twitter user.

Some people took to social media to say they stood with the strikers.

“Happy to be affected by the BVG strike, full solidarity with the strikers,” said this Twitter user.

BVG employees were out on the picket line in the morning. The dispute is over pay and conditions.

There have been traffic jams in the capital as lots of commuters switched to cars. Berlin transport information network said in some areas there were 45 to 50 minute delays on the road. Drivers were urged to plan more time for their journey.

Although there were busy S-Bahn trains during rush hour, some people said stations, such as here at Alexanderplatz, were eerily quiet. Perhaps people were avoiding all public transport.

Union Verdi said the offers from the employeers to the 14,600 staff of the BVG and its subsidiary Berlin Transport (BT) were not good enough.

The BVG has previously said strike action is “completely inappropriate”.

 

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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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