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  • Berlin news update: Monday, January 18


Berlin news update: Monday, January 18

Mayor Michael Müller rejects tougher contact rules, Berlin blames federal government for vaccine shortage, anti-Corona activist meeting raided by police and CDU councillor in racist outburst. Plus: alarm over overcrowding at BER.

Image for Berlin news update: Monday, January 18

Berlin mayor Michael Müller has suggested that employers might be forced to allow employees to work from home. Photo: Lucas Werkmeister / Creative Commons

Müller rejects tougher contact rules, federal government blamed for vaccine shortage, police break up anti-Corona activist meeting

Mayor Michael Müller has declared his opposition to toughening the rules on private gatherings as chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to agree a raft of new measures to tackle the current wave of Covid-19. Speaking to Phoenix TV today, Müller said he would not be willing to continue to “turn the screw” on families any more. As an alternative, the mayor said he was in favour of forcing businesses to permit home working and proposed introducing a nationwide requirement to wear heavy-duty FFP2 face masks in public areas. The new rules are to be agreed at a summit between state leaders and the chancellor on Tuesday.

Berlin’s Health Senator Dilek Kalayci sharply criticised the federal government today for the shortages of Covid-19 vaccines. Speaking to the health committee the SPD politician accused the government of failing to ensure supplies, calling deliveries of the jabs “unreliable”. There appeared to be “major communication problems between the Federal Ministry of Health and Pfizer,” Kalayci added. The American drug giant announced last week that it would temporarily cut back EU supplies of its vaccine as it retools its factories to boost production capacity. Berlin is due to receive its next batch of 29,250 doses by the end of Tuesday.

Police shut down two gatherings last week organised by a group of Corona sceptics who reportedly wanted to establish a political party. Officers were called to the Scotch & Sofa bar in Prenzlauer Berg on Thursday evening and found 28 people – including award-winning Berlin hat designer Rike Feurstein – taking part in what appeared to be a political meeting. The police arrested 28 members of the unnamed group, which is said to oppose all measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. “This is an experiment of how far you can go with democracy,” one participant told the Tagesspiegel. Officers attended the bar again on Friday after 30 members attempted to hold another meeting, though this time the individuals were prevented from entering the premises. 

CDU councillor faces charges after racist outburst, Alexei Navalny jailed in Moscow, passenger pile-up at BER

A Berlin CDU councillor racially abused and attacked a Vietnamese employee of an Kreuzberg Imbiss on Sunday, according to reports in the Tagesspiegel. Harald Sielaff – who is a member of the district assembly for Tempelhof-Schöneberg – subjected an employee of the Asia Food & Sushi Bar on Mehringdamm to a torrent of abuse, allegedly shouting that “Chinese” were not wanted in the “Federal Republic of Germany”. The 55-year-old, who sits on a parliamentary group for school and youth policy, also allegedly demanded the snack bar employee show his residence documents. Police charged Sielaff with defamation and property damage.

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who until recently was being treated in Berlin for poisoning, was sentenced to 30 days in prison today by a Moscow court. The 44-year-old Russian was convicted of violating the bail conditions for a previous offence just hours after he stepped off a flight from Berlin. An express “trial” was held in a police station following Navalny’s arrest at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday, in events he described as the “peak of lawlessness”.

There were chaotic scenes at BER on Sunday after two flights landed within minutes of each other causing a pile-up of passengers at immigration. Pictures from the airport show dense crowds of people waiting to clear passport control, scenes which BER blamed on a failure to process the arrivals in batches. A spokesman for the newly opened hub called on Berliners to only fly when necessary. “It is very important to postpone avoidable travel until after the end of the pandemic,” he told B.Z. newspaper.