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LIVING IN GERMANY

‘We’re all living the same disaster’: How foreign residents are getting through the German lockdown winter

This is an exceptionally tough winter. We asked readers what they think about the situation, how they are coping and for their tips on how to get through the German second wave winter.

'We're all living the same disaster': How foreign residents are getting through the German lockdown winter
A person walking in Warnemünde at the Baltic Sea on January 18th. Photo: DPA

Germany has been in a state of shutdown since November. But coronavirus infection numbers are refusing to budge, while the number of deaths remain at a high level.

Adding to the stress is the fact we are in the middle of winter which is a tough time in Germany anyway.

With no saunas or cosy cafes open – or the chance to escape to warmer climes on holiday or meet up with friends and family – we asked readers how they are feeling, and how they are getting through this time.

READ ALSO: You are not alone – living abroad in the time of corona

So how are you getting through this time and what are your tips for others?

Frustrated. Lonely. Homesick. Angry. Tired. These are some of the things you told us you've been feeling as Germany battles a coronavirus resurgence in the middle of winter.

But there are ways to get through it. Readers recommended keeping in touch with friends and family (even if it's online) as well as making your home cosy with blankets, extra lights or candles.

Many people also said reading, doing crafts, listening to audio books, music or podcasts was helpful as well as watching TV.

Almost everyone said getting out in the daylight to move around and not bottling up your feelings was very important.

Anne Schydlowski, 26, in Berlin said she was feeling “scared and hopeless. We can't see the end of it, there's nothing to look forward to yet like nice holidays in the sun, or seeing your family over a nice meal”.

To take her mind off things, she is focusing on going on walks and playing video games in her spare time.

Schydlowski added: “Please take care of yourself and speak up when you're not doing well, we're all living the same disaster. Talk to friends, do something creative, listen to podcasts, make your home cosy and comfortable.”

George Houghton, 25, in Berlin said he was running outdoors and listening to Die Zeit's podcast: “Alles Gesagt”.

“Just don't put pressure on yourself,” he added.

Sergei, 31, said staying off social media was helpful.

For foreign residents in Germany, it's difficult being apart from loved ones.

Nilgün Rengin Sazak, 30, in Cottbus said: “I feel pretty depressed since I miss being in contact with people around me and I am also so worried for my family's conditions in my home country, Turkey.”

Sazak's tips are: “Try to have a good sleeping schedule and go for walks regularly. It is really important to have fresh air.

“Also don`t forget to eat healthier, get some vitamins and drink tea.”

VIDEO: 'We stayed on our asses': Germany hails courage of young 'heroes' who fought 2020 pandemic

People walking in Thuringia on January 18th. Photo: DPA

'It's okay to not be okay'

Lots of respondents told us how they spent their first Christmas away from their family, which was difficult.

Aashana Tripathi, 27, in Potsdam said: “I would suggest that it is okay to not to be okay. Share your feelings with your friends and family. It's always better to talk than keep silent.”

Tripathi's said the German winter is “always dark and depressing for me but I try to engage more with indoor hobbies and activities”.

Dawn Darling, 53, who is based in the Oberursel-Frankfurt area, said: “Keep a gratitude journal and write down at least one thing you are grateful for each day. When you are feeling more “up” make a bucket list of things that make you happy – however small – and do one when you are down – no matter if it is the last thing you feel like doing.”

Arik Dov, 26, in Leipzig said: “Don't be so hard on yourself. We are all struggling in one way or another, but must never forget to find hope wherever we can. 

“Eat healthy food, find some sort of rituals to do away from your computer or phone that connect you with the present moment and yourself.”

Jennifer Lapina, 48, in Königstein, said she was “ready for it to end”.

She added: “Be gentle with yourself, and give grace to others as well as there is no rule book in handling the situation.

“Tackle small tasks you’ve been procrastinating, and reach out to others who are struggling to take the focus off your woes. At the end of each day give thanks for three things, no matter how insignificant.”

'We should have had a stricter lockdown in October'

We also asked how well you think Germany is dealing with the second Covid-19 wave.

Most readers told us they believe the government has made mistakes in its dealing of the pandemic this autumn and winter.

“It felt like the first wave was so well handled, and then the second was just bungled – seemed pretty clear by October that we needed a hard lockdown to stifle the case numbers and since then it's just been a slow motion car crash,” said George Houghton, in Berlin.

Prasath B., 36, in Frankfurt had similar thoughts. He said the handling of the second wave is “much worse” and restrictions should have been put in place earlier “when the spike in numbers started”.

“Currently it’s not easy and people are also not following social distancing, making matters even worse,” he said.

'Absolute disaster'

“Considering the first wave, it (the second wave) has been an absolute disaster,” said Janne Jarvis, 50, in Berlin. “Putting the economy ahead of the health of a nation is symptomatic of a system that has failed. Germany, I might add, is not alone in these failings.”

“I wish a proper lockdown would have been implemented earlier,” Berlin-based Ana Guerreiro, 35, said.

Denise Richardson, 66, who lives in Heinsberg near Aachen where a large outbreak was detected in the first wave, echoed this.

“We should have had a stricter lockdown back in October. We were one of the first regions in February to have Covid cases and then the lockdown saved many lives.”

Arik Dov in Leipzig, said: “It feels very chaotic and messy still. I have the feeling that despite the new restrictions, people are still traveling and meeting up indoors. This is clearly seen with the amount of traffic still in the city.”

However, others believe the German government is doing all it can.

Tübingen-based Bakhtiar Meraj, 23, said: “The situation is dire but I believe the government is doing their best.”

“Obviously no one likes being on lockdown but this is a necessary action. I believe that the leadership is handling it as well as they can,” said Richard, 51, based near Stuttgart.

ANALYSIS: Do Germany's new lockdown restrictions go far enough?

'Hang in there'

Overall, Local readers are tired but remain hopeful for the future.

Rajakrishnan Vallur Sridhar, 29, in Stutensee, Baden-Württemberg said he was feeling a “combination of fatigue and bit of stress” but added he felt “fortunate knowing that things could get much worse as it is in different parts of the country and the world”.

Enilceia, 65, and Douglas Evangelista, 69, in Bonn urged people to “remain safe and warm at home, with positive thoughts”. They added: “This shall pass, and you should continue to be healthy and alive

Over in Kiel, Barbara Garden, 55, said she felt “worried but positive we can get through if we all pull together and help each other kindly”.

She recommended “vitamin D, exercise, fresh food” and keeping in touch with friends even if they are far away.

READ ALSO: Germany grapples with mental health impact of Covid-19

Berlin makes its feelings about coronavirus known. Photo: DPA

Janne Jarvis in Berlin pointed out that that there are huge worries for people due to being furloughed or losing their job. She said it was time for new ideas, such as universal basic income.

“I think that everyone would have an easier time ‘keeping their spirits up’ if they didn’t have to worry about financial pressures on top of a pandemic.

“The financial uncertainty has fatally damaged the confidence of working people and entrepreneurs. The public don’t have the stomach to help rebuild the economy without a radical rethink about subjects such as universal income.”

Another reader, Basil Mustafa, 29, said the lockdown measures were “necessary” and the best thing for everyone. “Try to find something you're passionate about and work on it,” Mustafa added. “Also long walks can really help. Keep in contact with family/friends and open up about your feelings.”

Sama Beheshti, 32, in Berlin feels “anxious” but added: “I'm trying to organise more virtual events with friends and family to get through the winter blues that are hitting me hard during lockdown. I'm reading a lot of books and keeping myself busy as much as I can. My cat also helps me stay happy.”

Peter Switzer, 68, in Düsseldorf had these words, which sum up the feeling that we are all simply in survival mode: “Hang in there…we will get through this.”

***

Thanks to everyone who shared their experience with us. Although we weren't able to include all the submissions, we read each of them and we are truly sympathetic to the challenges everyone is facing right now during this pandemic. 

If there's anything you'd like to ask or tell us about our coronavirus coverage or how the outbreak has affected you, please feel free to get in touch.

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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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