30,000 people spotted without mask on Berlin public transport in three weeks

Tens of thousands of people in Berlin are flouting the rules by not wearing a face covering on public transport.

30,000 people spotted without mask on Berlin public transport in three weeks
People wearing face masks at Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station in Berlin in April. Photo: DPA

As part of coronavirus measures, people in Germany must wear a covering over their face and mouth when riding on public transport and in certain closed areas such as shops.

Now new figures reported in the Tagesspiegel show that tens of thousands of people in the capital are ignoring the rules.

The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) said their staff had spotted around 30,000 violations of the mask rules in the last three weeks.

These people “were encountered and approached without a protective mask”, the Tagesspiegel reports.

Meanwhile, 1,300 masks have been distributed, and about 100 passengers have been able to present a certificate exempting them from wearing a mask. In about 80 cases, BVG inspectors and security staff have been threatened and insulted.

The mask requirement has been in force since April 27th in Berlin but since July 7th, compliance has been monitored by the BVG.

READ ALSO: Berlin to fine people who flout coronavirus face mask rules

Berlin's government voted on June 23rd to slap €50 fines on people who don't wear a face mask when it is mandatory to do so, such as when travelling on public transport or in shops.

The fines range from €50 to €500. The €500 fine applies if someone repeatedly violated the obligation to wear masks.

According to the BVG, around 200 €50 penalties have been handed out to passengers so far.

What's Germany's official stance on masks during Covid times?

The government says that to protect people at close proximity, states “have introduced rules on wearing non-medical mouth and nose masks, called community masks, when travelling on public transport and when shopping”.

Rules on wearing mouth and nose masks can differ from region to region, so the government urges people to check the rules where you live.

“At all times, even if you wear a mouth and nose mask: keep at least 1.5 metres away from others, practice good hand hygiene and adhere to sneezing and coughing etiquette,” says the German government advise. They also urge people not to buy medical masks such as FFP 2 and FFP 3 for private use.

“These should be kept for medical staff only,” says the advice.

People who can't wear a mask for medical reasons do not have to do so. They can receive a note from their doctor to explain the situation if needed.

Cases rising

It comes as the number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the German capital continues to rise. Most recently, 79 new cases were reported; according to the Tagesspiegel – the highest increase within a day since the end of June.

Around 9,000 cases in total have been registered in Berlin since the start of the pandemic, with about 220 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

There have been concerns that people ignoring distancing rules at large parties in Berlin's parks could fuel a rise in infections. On Tuesday night, up to 1,200 people gathered in the Hasenheide park in Neukölln, according to police.

READ ALSO: Bus driver in Germany attacked after asking passenger to wear mask

Deutsche Bahn suffers biggest loss in its history

Meanwhile, Germany's state train operator Deutsche Bahn says the coronavirus pandemic has plunged the firm “into the worst financial crisis in its history”.

In the first half of the year, Deutsche Bahn posted a loss of €3.7 billion, the company announced. The number of passengers fell by 37 percent to just under 663 million, while revenue dropped by almost 12 percent to €19.4 billion.

According to CEO Richard Lutz, however, Deutsche Bahn will continue to invest and hire more people as part of the government's climate protection programme which urges people to choose rail travel over flying to help the environment.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now