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  • Berlin news update: Friday, January 15


Berlin news update: Friday, January 15

Plans for tougher lockdown announced, second Berlin vaccination centre opens, more freelancer aid promised and German parliament ends use of fax machines.

Image for Berlin news update: Friday, January 15

The FDP has called on Berlin to follow Bavaria in making FFP2 masks mandatory in public places. Photo: Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Lockdown rules to be toughened, second vaccination centre opens, vaccine shortages hinder jab rollout

Germany’s nationwide lockdown is set to be expanded with tougher rules on travel and work, according to government sources. Partial shutdowns of public transport networks are one of the measures being proposed, the Tagesspiegel quotes a federal government source as saying today. “This would not only affect buses, U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains, but also Deutsche Bahn,” the source said. In Berlin, a number of Senators are also in favour of forcing employers to permit more home working. A planned meeting between chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders to discuss the proposals has been brought forward to Tuesday next week. The current round of restrictions are due to lapse on January 31, though an extension is all but guaranteed.

Berlin’s second Covid-19 vaccination centre opened at the Erika Hess ice rink in Wedding yesterday. The first day of operations saw 120 over-80s vaccinated – far fewer than the 1300 the centre was designed for. Medical staff were administering the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, though it was expected that the newly-approved Moderna vaccine would be given on Friday. The Erika Hess centre joins the Arena conference venue in Treptow, which has been giving jabs since the beginning of January. A third vaccination venue is due to open at the Messe exhibition centre early next week.

Despite increased capacity Berlin is unlikely to be able to vaccinate even the most high-risk populations before April due to shortages of vaccines. Speaking to the Abgeordnetenhaus on Thursday, Health Senator Dilek Kalayci said that deliveries from manufacturers BioNTech and Moderna promised for the first quarter of 2021 will not be sufficient to vaccinate the first patients (the over 80s and medical and care workers). As things stand, a total of 250,000 Berliners will have been vaccinated by April – 50,000 fewer than planned.

More freelancer cash promised, FDPs call for FFP2 masks, Bundestag ends use of fax machines 

Freelancers and small business owners affected by the ongoing lockdown are to receive additional financial aid, Berlin’s Economic Senator Ramona Pop promised yesterday. Speaking to the Berlin Senat, Pop said the self-employed can expect to receive €5000 for the period January–June, though talks are reportedly underway to increase that amount. The Green politician is hoping to draw on a €500 million budget agreed by the Senat in December to provide more cash to struggling self-employed workers.

The use of filtering FFP2 face masks could allow retailers to reopen their doors, Berlin’s FDP leader Sebastian Czaja argued today. “I want to see the Berlin Senat establish a short-term programme to distribute FFP2 masks,” Czaja told the Abgeordnetenhaus this morning. Opposed to toughening the current lockdown rules, Czaja is in favour of copying measures introduced in Bavaria this week requiring people to wear the filter masks when shopping and on public transport. “FFP2 masks have been shown to provide real protection and reduce the risk of infection to almost zero when worn correctly,” said Czaja.

Fax machines are finally being phased out at the Bundestag, the German parliament’s Council of Elders said in an announcement today. The news that 900 fax machines are still in use by the country’s lawmakers may come as a surprise – particularly given recent attempts by the government to push its “digitisation” agenda. Most of the machines are being used for the sending of classified documents, with the German Foreign Office particularly dependent on the technology.