‘You get a feeling that Berliners think the worst of coronavirus has passed’

'You get a feeling that Berliners think the worst of coronavirus has passed'
People sit in the sun along the banks of the Landwehr Canal in Berlin on April 9, 2020 amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on April 9, 2020 for "patien
As Chancellor Angela Merkel calls for Germans to remain focused The Local's Rachel Loxton says the busy streets of the capital city Berlin suggest locals think the worst of the epidemic might be over.

“Do you have a feeling it’s over?” That was the text message I received from a friend this week as temperatures climbed to over 20C and queues formed outside ice cream shops. 

It’s been nearly three weeks since Chancellor Angela Merkel announced strict social distancing rules for Germany which include keeping a distance of 1.5 metres between people and only meeting with one person in public.

Yet looking at the busy streets, parks and supermarkets, there’s definitely a feeling that suggests Berliners think the worst of the coronavirus epidemic in Germany has passed.

The restrictions are to last until April 19th but there is already talk of Germany’s lockdown exit strategy.

What will life look like? According to a draft government plan there would be widespread testing, contact tracing and isolating, compulsory face masks, as well as social distancing measures allowing businesses and schools to reopen. 

Health Minister Jens Spahn said there would be a “gradual” return to normality – although partying would be off the cards for some time yet. 

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On paper this is all positive and the curve is flattening, according to experts.

But the number of people dying in connection with coronavirus is still going up as the infection takes hold across care homes in Germany. As of Thursday there were around 2,300 confirmed deaths compared to about 1,000 a week ago. 

There were more than 114,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

Seeing rising numbers – even if the infection rate is slowing – is grim. 

Compared to other countries like Italy, Spain, France and the UK, Germany is in a better position. The lockdown is not as strict here; it’s still okay to go out and get fresh air. We’re even allowed to sit on a bench.  

It sounds cheesy but you do become grateful for simple things, like being able to pick up a coffee or croissant from the bakery. 

Last Saturday I cycled around the quiet streets of central Berlin, passing the Brandenburg Gate, before stopping off to grab a halloumi kebab to take home.

It’s such a small insignificant thing in the scheme of things but in corona times it felt amazing having the freedom to do that. 

Merkel made another appeal on Thursday saying: “We must remain focused – the situation is fragile.”

I just hope people stick to the rules because I don’t want them to become stricter.  And more importantly: it’s just the right thing to do.

So there is a lot of positive news coming from Germany. But the crisis is far from over.

This is an excerpt from the latest in our series 'Coronavirus around Europe' in which our journalists describe the situation in the country they are in and look ahead to what might come next.

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  1. Well, despite all this, infection and death rates are very low for a metropolitan area like Berlin.

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