Lockdown set to be extended until January 31, schools to remain closed until at least January 17, Arena vaccination centre reopens
Germany’s nationwide lockdown is to be extended until the end of January according to reports by Reuters news agency today. The federal government and state leaders are discussing the extension, with all but two states said to be in favour of retaining current rules until at least January 31. A final decision is expected to be made on Tuesday at a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers, with Berlin thought to be in support of the extension. The decision comes as the pressure from coronavirus on Berlin’s intensive care units continues to rise, with 446 patients being treated for severe Covid, the highest level since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Berlin’s schools will remain closed until at least January 17, Schools Senator Sandra Scheeres told the Tagesspiegel today. Starting with the new term today, a programme of online learning will replace face-to-face lessons, though some final-year pupils will continue to attend school on alternate days. Scheeres said any decision to allow younger children to return will be dictated by infection rates. School closures are being fiercely debated in Germany, with some states in favour of keeping children at home and others prioritising school attendance. The cities of Bremen and Hamburg are also expected to extend school closures beyond the original date of January 11.
Vaccinations were today being administered again at the Arena Berlin conference centre in Treptow following closure last week. Several thousand elderly people received invitations for vaccination appointments on Monday though staff said they expected only 600 to attend. Like the rest of Germany, Berlin has had a slow start to its vaccination programme since beginning on December 27 with insufficient vaccine supplies and poor take-up by the public leading to the temporary closure of five of the city’s vaccine centres. The centres – which have a capacity of 20,000 people a day – are running at a fraction of their capacity at present. A total of 14,600 people have been vaccinated so far, the majority of those nursing home residents.
U-Bahn trains suspended after fire, New Year’s Eve passes uneventfully, tourism resurgence predicted
Services were suspended on the U5 today after a fire broke out on an U-Bahn train at the Rotes Rathaus underground station in Mitte. According to a fire brigade spokesman, the incident involved a small fire on an empty train that was quickly extinguished, with two BVG employees treated on the scene for minor smoke inhalation. The incident comes after another U-Bahn station fire at Schloßstraße on Saturday that left the U9 line suspended.
There were muted New Year celebrations in Berlin this year as the city continues to battle record coronavirus case numbers. With nearly 3000 police officers patrolling the streets to enforce bans on fireworks and outdoor drinking, the numbers of people celebrating at hotspots like Hermannplatz and Kottbusser Tor were significantly lower than in previous years. Incidences of disruption and injury were sharply down, while the demonstrations by Corona sceptics that authorities had feared failed to materialise.
Following a collapse in visitor numbers and revenues tourism is expected to make a resurgence in Berlin as soon as this summer – that’s according to the boss of Visit Berlin. “There is a pent-up demand for travel,” said Burkhard Kieker in an interview with the Morgenpost on Saturday. The pandemic has hit Berlin’s tourism industry hard, with a 70 percent fall in annual visitor numbers last year. “By 2024 at the latest, we will have overcome the consequences of the crisis,” Kieker said.