Berlin News

Berlin news update: Monday, January 11

Senat to impose travel limits, all Covid traffic lights on red, Müller admits schools mistakes, vaccine brand choice criticised and dramatic fall in flu cases.

Article image for Berlin news update: Monday, January 11

15-kilometre travel limit planned, all Covid traffic lights on red, Müller admits schools mistakes

Strict 15-kilometre travel limits are set to be introduced in Berlin tomorrow as the city’s number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reaches 200, the Tagesspiegel reports. According to the strategy agreed by the federal government and state leaders this month, an index of 200 or above requires the introduction of a citywide ban on people travelling further than 15 kilometres outside Berlin. Journeys excluded from the rule include going to work, visits to the doctor and emergencies. The Senat is due to finalise the measure at a session on Tuesday.

The decision to limit Berliners’ movements came on a day when all three of the city’s coronavirus traffic lights turned red for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The four-day R-value rose to 1.47 while the weekly Covid-19 incidence stood at 191 cases per 100,000. Meanwhile 33 percent of Berlin’s intensive care beds are currently occupied by Covid patients. The daily incidence rate has since reached 203,9 cases per 100,000, leading the Senat to take action to limit journeys. 

Mayor Michael Müller has admitted that mistakes were made in the city’s abortive attempt to open schools to some children starting today. “First of all it must be said that of course things didn’t go well and we made mistakes with communication,” the SPD politician told RBB this morning. “We gave the impression that all schools would reopen as of today. Of course, that was not the case at all.” Confusion reigned on Friday afternoon after a dramatic about-turn by the Senat, which announced that schools would not be opening until at least January 25 just hours after Education Senator Sandra Scheeres had insisted that pupils would return to class as soon as January 11.

Plan to give public choice of vaccines criticised, dramatic fall in flu cases

A suggestion by Health Senator Dilek Kalayci that Berliners would be able to choose which brand of Covid-19 vaccine they receive has been criticised by politicians and doctors. Speaking at the Velodrome vaccination centre on Saturday, Kalayci said “We have organised the vaccination centres according to vaccine type,” the idea being that the public can choose their vaccine by registering at a specific centre. The comments were condemned by Die Linke health spokesman and doctor Wolfgang Albers as giving a “fundamentally flawed impression of vaccines.” There is no evidence that either of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines offers superior protection against coronavirus.

Berlin’s lockdown is not just reducing the spread of coronavirus: the 2020/21 flu season has also been hindered. A mere five confirmed cases of influenza have been recorded since October, according to a January 8 analysis by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). For comparison, the same time last year 300 flu cases had already been recorded – 60 times more than at present. Strict limits on contacts, social distancing and the closure of workplaces have all contributed to the fall in cases.

Police scuffles at leftist demonstration, €3.3 million to combat littering

There were clashes with police at a left-wing march on Sunday to mark the assassination of communists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. 1000 people gathered in Friedrichshain despite the postponement of the official rally to March, with 230 police officers called to the scene. According to reports, police intervened after demonstrators were seen displaying flags showing the insignia of the FDJ communist youth organisation, which can constitute a criminal offence. A total of 32 people were arrested for offences including assault, breach of the peace, and actual bodily harm. 

The Senat is making €3.3 million available to boost street cleaning this year as part of its “Sauberes Berlin” scheme to reduce the city’s littering and tipping problem. Mitte and Neukölln are to receive the largest share of the cash based on the number of reports of illegal waste made last year. In 2020 there were more than 96,000 reports of tipping in Berlin.