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Alone Together: How I had an unexpected night out at a German online bar

Bars and clubs around Germany closed their doors in mid-March. But one virtual nightlife spot, led by a professional socializing coach, keeps the good times going, writes Sarah Magill.

Alone Together: How I had an unexpected night out at a German online bar
Photo: DPA

After weeks of lockdown and social isolation, on Saturday night I decided it was finally time to go out and meet some new people. So, for the first time in weeks, I went to a bar. But instead of taking a tram or a train to one of the local hotspots, I just opened my laptop.

As the little blue loading wheel spun on the hosting platform, I imagined myself pushing open the door of an unfamiliar and windowless bar in Berlin, unsure about what I would find inside. As soon as I entered, eleven new faces popped up on screen before a backdrop of a wall of liquor bottles.

Everyone stopped what they were doing to greet me and asked where I’m from – that’s never happened in Berlin.

READ ALSO: How to make the most of German culture while social distancing

Alone Together Bar opened on April 6th and is run by one-woman-show Lydia Molensky, from the Netherlands and living in Munich for four years.

In the time BC (before Corona) Molensky worked as a professional socializing coach, with her business The Catchmaker which helps people who struggle to make new social connections with one-to-one coaching. But when the Covid-19 Crisis put her business on hold, she came up with the idea of opening an online bar instead.

“I still wanted to give people in my community the opportunity to connect with each other, so I started out by organizing online drinks.” When this proved to be successful, and people from outside of her local community started to join, she decided to open Alone Together Bar

“At the moment I have one online bar open, which is open especially for internationals worldwide but depending how things develop, I would be happy to open more “local” bars and to get more hosts on board.”

Alone Together Bar founder Lydia Molensky is helping people stay connected

The bar is open every day between 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. and Molensky is present as a welcoming host and moderator, to help maintain a friendly and comfortable atmosphere. 

Having a socialising expert present in the bar is definitely a big plus, as I saw first hand on Saturday night. When I arrived, I fell straight into a game of “Truth or Dare” in which I found myself quite quickly opening up to strangers about some intimate and embarrassing truths – and feeling surprisingly at ease with it.

READ ALSO: The show must go on: How cultural life has moved online in Germany

“I try my best to give everyone a warm welcome, introduce people to each other and get the conversation going and use conversation games to keep it interactive,” explained Molensky. 

I personally found that this helped to dissolve my own shyness and made the bar a relaxed and fun environment for both introverts and extroverts alike. 

Everyone is welcome in the Alone Together Bar. Photo: DB

“No judgement” was the buzz phrase that evening, as most of us became slightly tipsier in our own homes. Another advantage of being in an online bar is that everyone can choose their own drinks and keep themselves topped up at will; the beverages of choice on Saturday included tea, wine, beer and homemade cocktails. 

By the end of the evening, I felt like I had had a proper night out and made some interesting new acquaintances, who just happened to live thousands of miles away. 

As to the future of the bar, Molensky is taking it day by day, but will certainly keep it running for as long as the Corona Crisis continues. The bar is run by donations and, at the moment, is able to host up to 12 guests at a time. If she is able to raise more money, she would like to expand and add more online bars.

 

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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