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BERLIN

Berlin becomes first German state to pause lockdown relaxation

The German capital has decided to stop the easing of the lockdown after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in recent days.

Berlin becomes first German state to pause lockdown relaxation
A restaurant in Friedrichshain, Berlin. Photo:dpa | Christophe Gateau

Berlin mayor Michael Müller described the situation as “gruelling” as he confirmed on Tuesday that no further steps towards a return to normal life would be taken at  the moment, according to a report in the Berliner Zeitung.

Concretely, that means that restaurants will not be able to open for outdoor dining, while theatres, concert halls, opera houses and cinemas will remain closed, and outdoor sport will still not be possible.

One important relaxation of the rules will not be lifted, though. Teenagers in the year groups 10 to 13 started school again in the capital on Wednesday in “shift classes.” Half of the class will attend in-person while the other half will work at home.

SEE ALSO: Are all German schools really going to open again before Easter?

The year groups 7 to 9 will not be allowed back into school though. Berlin had planned to bring them back into the classroom next week.

All of the year groups will return to the classroom in shifts after Easter “should the infection situation allow it,” the city’s education ministry said.

The epidemic situation has become markedly worse in Germany’s largest city in recent days. The 7-day incidence of infections rose to 91.3 on Tuesday, a strong increase on the day before when it stood at 75.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

At 16 percent occupancy, the intensive care situation in Berlin has not yet risen to the critical level where the city turns its “traffic light” warning system to red.

At the last crunch lockdown talks on March 3rd, Angela Merkel and the state leader agreed on a step-by-step lifting of restrictions. But built into this process was a so-called Notbremse – an emergency brake which local and regional governments could pull if the 7-day incidence were to rise above 100.

With cases rising strongly again throughout the country, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has said that Germany is already in the midst of a third wave of the virus.

The RKI released a prognosis last week that there would be more cases in early April than there were at the high point of the crisis in late December. The basis for this prognosis is the increased prevalence of the so-called British variant of the coronavirus which is believed to be more transmissible.

READ ALSO: German coronavirus cases ‘will be higher at Easter than before Christmas’

Member comments

  1. I don´t get the idea of this “vaccine” at all. It appears not to be a vaccine in the legal sense of the word to do nothing except, apparently, require you to have another and then repeat annually. An inoculation it is not. Even it´s manufacturers don´t say it will prevent you being contageous. just what´s the deal with it? No wonder a certain Bill Gates said Vaccines were the best thing he ever invested in!

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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