Kalayci in hospital capacity warning, work starts on vaccination centres, hospitality sales collapse
Health Senator Dilek Kalayci has warned of overburdened hospitals if the number of new coronavirus cases is not kept under control. Speaking at the Health Committee today, Kalayci said that while the recent fall in daily case numbers provides a “glimmer of hope” the situation at Berlin’s hospitals remains “acute and tense”. “The level of new infections is still far too high. We have to get back to a manageable level,” the SPD politician said. Currently 30 percent of all Covid patients treated in hospitals have to go into intensive care, and while there are 210 beds still free across the city, some individual hospitals – including the Neukölln Vivantes clinic – have had to shut their doors to new patients.
Work began today on Berlin’s six Covid-19 vaccination centres which could welcome their first patients within two weeks. The centres will occupy existing venues across the city: the Erika-Heß ice rink in Mitte, the Velodrome in Lichtenberg, Arena Berlin in Treptow, the former Tempelhof and Tegel airports, and Messehalle 11 in Charlottenburg. Work converting the buildings is due to be completed by mid-December, allowing vaccinations to begin as soon as regulatory approval is given and vaccine kits arrive. The city is planning to administer 900,000 vaccine doses initially, allowing 450,000 at-risk people to be vaccinated. Meanwhile US pharmaceutical firm Moderna applied for EU approval for its Covid vaccine today, meaning it will likely be the first vaccine used in Germany.
Berlin’s hotel and restaurant industry saw a 43 percent drop in year-on-year sales for the first nine months of 2020, figures released today show. The hotel sector has been hardest hit, with accommodation providers reporting a 67 percent fall in sales in September alone. For the first nine months of the year income was down 58 percent on the same period last year, according to the Berlin-Brandenburg Office for Statistics. Restaurants and bars have been less affected, though business owners reported a year-on-year drop in turnover of around a third in September – before the latest lockdown came into effect.
Merkel criticises hotel openings, top chef warns of restaurant insolvencies, U5 extension to open this week
Angela Merkel has criticised plans by Germany’s state governments – including Berlin – to allow hotel stays for family visits over Christmas. According to reports in the Tagesspiegel today, the chancellor told CDU colleagues that the rule – which permits visiting relatives to stay in hotels but retains the ban on tourist travel – will be impossible to enforce. In response the Senat rejected the criticism and defended its compromise. “It is important that all non-essential travel is avoided,” spokeswoman Melanie Reinsch said today. “This includes tourist trips. A visit to relatives is not a tourist trip,” she added.
Star chef Tim Raue has warned that the current lockdown will lead to business failures in the restaurant industry. Raue, who runs an eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant in Kreuzberg, said his sector will inevitably see closures due to the pandemic. “Losses and bankruptcies will trickle down in January as abundantly as dry needles from the Christmas tree,” he told the DPA today. Things are bleak for restaurant owners despite government support, said Raue. “The fact that the government is announcing aid measures for us sounds good, but what we will get will not come anywhere near the income we made in previous years,” he said.
After ten years under construction, the extension of the U5 U-Bahn line in Mitte is finally finished. Starting Midday on Friday, December 4, underground trains from Honow will continue running from Alexanderplatz through to Hauptbahnhof station, providing a new direct link between the eastern district and the city’s main railway station. Making this possible is a new stretch of line that runs from Alexanderplatz to Brandenburger Tor via two new stations, Unter den Linden and Rotes Rathaus. A final station, Museumsinsel, is set to open in summer 2021.