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  • Berlin news update: Monday, February 8


Berlin news update: Monday, February 8

Travel chaos as severe weather continues, health senator in lockdown warning, fire at refugee shelter, and pipe bombs found at blast suspect’s flat. Plus: zoos facing huge loss.

Image for Berlin news update: Monday, February 8

There was chaos on Berlin’s roads and railways today as heavy snowfall continues. Photo: Leon Seibert / Unsplash

Arctic blast brings travel chaos, health senator in lockdown warning, fire at refugee shelter 

Snow and ice are continuing to cause severe disruption on Berlin’s roads and railways with widespread delays and cancellations to S-Bahn services and difficult driving conditions. The S8 and S85 lines were suspended throughout Monday due to the snowfall, with most other lines reporting severe delays. No significant disruption to U-Bahn and tram services was reported. Inner-city roads were passable although drivers faced significantly longer travel times, while cycling was particularly precarious. Food delivery workers were spared treacherous conditions after takeaway platform Wolt temporarily suspended deliveries.

Berlin’s health senator Dilek Kalayci has warned against relaxing coronavirus measures until authorities are able to fully track and trace infections. “We are far from out of the woods,” Kalayci told rbb today, adding that “Until we have vaccine protection in the population, we all still have to hold out.” The intervention comes as federal and state leaders prepare for a summit on Wednesday to decide on Germany’s next steps in the pandemic. Chancellor Angela Merkel has already suggested the lockdown could be extended due to the threat posed by Covid-19 mutations.

Firefighters were called to a refugee hostel in Friedenau on Monday evening after reports of a fire. Berlin’s fire service confirmed that there were reports of injuries at the shelter, with 80 officers said to be on scene. There were few details of the severity of the fire, though as of 6pm people were being brought out of the building to safety.

Pipe bombs found at blast suspect’s flat, senator rules out vaccine privileges

Police have found nine viable pipe bombs at the home of a Schöneberg man arrested in connection with an explosion last week. The 29-year-old attempted to flee the scene after a device exploded in a courtyard on Fritz-Reuter-Straße on Thursday, causing property damage but no injuries. Officers detained the man and subsequently found the additional explosives during a search of his apartment. Another suspect who was arrested has since been released.

Berlin’s culture senator Klaus Lederer has rejected proposals to allow people who have been vaccinated for Covid privileged access to theatres, cinemas and other public spaces. Writing in the Tagesspiegel on Saturday, the Left Party politician argued that granting access to places based vaccination status was unjustifiable: “In my opinion, once the vaccine has been offered to everyone in the country, there is simply no justification for it,” he wrote, adding that banning people who cannot or will not be vaccinated amounted to a “massive restriction of fundamental rights.”

Protests as homeless camp evicted, Berlin zoos face huge loss

There were protests on Sunday evening after a long-standing homeless camp by the Rummelsburger Bucht was evicted. Officials from Lichtenberg district authority removed around 100 rough sleepers from the lakeside camp, reportedly to ensure their safety during the current cold weather. But the move triggered protests by leftist supporters, 300 of whom gathered for a march on Rigaer Straße in Friedrichshain. The protesters accused Lichtenberg of depriving the residents of their belongings and dismantling the camp, something the district denies.

Berlin’s zoos have warned they are facing huge losses due to the pandemic’s impact on visitor numbers. Although both Tierpark and Zoo have been allowed to stay open during the lockdown, the loss of business – particularly from tourists – has been severe. “We are missing half of our sales. According to preliminary estimates, we expect a loss of about €12 million for 2020,” spokeswoman Philine Hachmeister told the DPA on Sunday. The company has to pay daily running costs of €140,000 for the two zoos regardless of visitor numbers.