Merkel hosts emergency vaccine summit, Berlin’s schools to remain closed, hairdressers warn of closures
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) met with state leaders and pharmaceutical firms today to discuss ways to speed up Germany’s lagging Covid vaccination programme. Measures proposed include the creation of an “emergency vaccine economy” forcing pharmaceutical companies to let rival firms manufacture their vaccines. Brandenburg’s state premier Dietmar Woidke also suggested that Germany could use vaccines developed by China and Russia if they met safety and efficacy criteria. The meeting comes following growing anger at the slow pace of the vaccination programme in Germany, which has administered 2.2 million doses so far compared to 9.5 million in the UK and 4.7 million in Israel.
Berlin’s schools will remain closed until well after the winter holidays, with some pupils unlikely to return to class before March. The Senate’s Education Department said that the coalition would meet next week to decide on when physical lessons can restart, but the opposition said that secondary schools would likely remain closed for the rest of the month. “There is no reason to believe that children are less likely to be carriers of the infection than adults,” the CDU’s Dirk Stettner told RBB radio on Saturday. Berlin’s schools are officially on holiday until February 8.
Berlin’s hairdressers have warned they face closure without government support as the lockdown continues to strip salons of their income. The head of the Berlin Hairdressers’ Guild Jan Kopatz said that urgent cash was needed. “We demand support from politicians as soon as possible in order to avoid the death of businesses,” he told DPA yesterday. The industry says that hairdressers have been left out of government schemes to help small businesses and that many salon owners are still having to pay rent despite being closed.
Arrests at anti-Covid protest, Köpenick flats evacuated due to collapse fears
Police made arrests last night after several hundred people gathered in Mitte to demonstrate against government measures to control the coronavirus. Roads were closed as members of the Querdenker movement – which has previously attracted conspiracy theorists and far-right figures – marched from Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column. Officers reported 50 breaches of infection prevention laws, including refusal to wear a mask and failure to maintain distancing.
Hundreds of residents in Köpenick were evacuated from their homes last night after engineers warned they were at risk of collapse. The occupants of 300 flats in 18 buildings were told to leave after cracks appeared on a wall located next to a flooded construction site. Residents are being accommodated in nearby hotels as engineers work to shore up the building. Officials blamed “improper civil engineering work” which left a partition wall at risk of giving way.
Radio operator arrested for directing pilots, Berlin starts offering online Anmeldung
A Berlin man is facing charges of endangering an aircraft after allegedly giving instructions to pilots over amateur radio. Police suspect the 32-year-old contacted passenger aircraft and police helicopters on multiple occasions over a six-month period, in some cases actually directing the pilots. “The man is alleged to have given flight instructions that appeared more and more professional over time and could therefore lead to dangerous flight manoeuvres,” police said in a statement on Friday. Investigators traced the signal to a flat in Köpenick where the man was arrested on Thursday.
From today Berlin residents will be able to complete their Anmeldung online in what is being sold as a step towards digital government services. Every year the city issues 130,000 flat registration certificates to residents, who are normally required to visit the Burgeramt registration office. Now Berliners can pay €10 and complete the process online. “Citizens are free to choose whether they want to go to the office in person or use the online service,” State Secretary of the Interior Sabine Smentek told DPA today.