Berlin plans restaurant openings as Covid infection rate falls
Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller said on Tuesday that the city’s restaurants could open for outside dining in the coming weeks, as the improved level of infection in the capital signals that the "emergency brake" can soon be lifted.
"If the incidences continue to develop as we are seeing at the moment, then I think we can start opening restaurants here," Müller said on Tuesday after a meeting of the city senate.
On Wednesday morning the 7-day incidence in Berlin stood at 105 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a big drop from 111 on Tuesday.
An ‘emergency brake’ (Notbremse) law passed by the German Bundestag last month means that districts with 7-day incidences above 100 have to close all non-essential retail, restaurants and cultural facilities.
At the same time, if a district has a 7-day incidence below 100 for three days in a row then it can begin to ease these restrictions.
The situation in Berlin’s hospitals is also now improving. For the first time since April 10th, the city confirmed on Wednesday that less than a quarter of its intensive care beds were taken up by patients suffering from Covid-19.
Müller said he would set out concrete plans next week.
"We'll be looking specifically next week at what can be offered, mainly outdoors, of course," he said.
"If things are possible, they will continue to come with rules," he stressed, but hinted that some cultural activities could also be back on the agenda.
"Outdoor cultural events will be limited, with few people, and with distance and hygiene rules."
According to the local newspaper BZ, the Berlin city government plans to let restaurants open by Whitsun, which takes place on May 23rd this year.
Brandenburg, which has a lower level of infection than Berlin, has already confirmed that it wants to allow people to eat and drink in the outdoor areas of restaurants by the time the religious holiday comes around.
Müller said at he wanted to make a "compatible plan" with the neighbouring state.
Berlin economy Minister Ramona Pop signalled that her party, the Greens, also backs an opening strategy.
"It is good news if Berlin reaches the 100 incidence soon; then we can lift the federal emergency brake," said Pop.
"Opening outdoor restaurants with a clear testing and hygiene concept can be a first step, because the risk of infection is significantly lower outdoors."