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COVID-19

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

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.

'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

“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. 

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.

Member comments

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

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

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Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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