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  • Daily Berlin news update: Monday, October 19

Berlin

Daily Berlin news update: Monday, October 19

Brandenburg visitor ban overturned, Berlin's Christmas markets get green light, and BER opening party cancelled. Plus: crocodile-skin mask seized by customs.

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Brandenburg holiday ban overturned, Christmas markets to go ahead, hospital and refuse workers strike

A ban on Berliners staying in hotels and apartments in Brandenburg has been struck down by the courts. The Higher Administrative Court ruled on Friday that the regulation – which prevented tourists from staying overnight in the neighbouring state – was disproportionate. The decision came following the overturning of another ban on bars and restaurants staying open after 11pm. Brandenburg’s tourism industry rejoiced at the decision, which will see hotels, guesthouses and campsites reopening their doors to guests. “I hope that we will be able to attract some guests and that tourists will begin coming for short breaks,” Olaf Schöpe of the Hotels and Restaurants Association Brandenburg said on Saturday.

Berlin’s Christmas markets are set to go ahead as planned despite rising Covid-19 infection rates. The Senat is expected to set out strict rules on mask-wearing and visitor numbers, with markets to be fenced off and private security to monitor enforcement of the rules. Under current regulations, outdoor events of up to 5000 people are still permitted. The Senat is to finalise plans for the markets in a sitting tomorrow as the latest wave of infections continues unabated, with a record 89.2 cases per 100,000 inhabitants reported in the past week.

Staff at Berlin’s hospitals went on strike today as national disputes over pay and conditions continue. Nurses at the Charité as well as the city’s Vivantes hospitals are expected to walk out on Monday and Tuesday, though care of Coronavirus patients is said to be unaffected. “Wards treating Covid-19 patients are excluded from the strike,” said Verdi trade union organiser Silvia Habekost in comments quoted by the Tagesspiegel. The industrial dispute also involves Berlin’s refuse workers: employees at Berliner Stadtreinigung (BSR) are due to walk out on Tuesday, affecting refuse collection and street cleaning.

BER opening party cancelled, police chief calls for number plates on bikes, Thaipark given official permit

It would have been the party of the year: a gala for 750 special guests to celebrate the opening of BER after more than a decade of delays and cost overruns. But organisers have been forced to shelve the lavish event due to the rapidly increasing number of new Corona infections. The cancelling of the October 30 party is just the latest dampener on the new airport’s opening: when the hub finally starts welcoming passengers on October 31, a mere 5000 passengers are expected to travel through the airport – a fraction of its 130,000 daily capacity.

Cyclists should be forced to put number plates on their bikes, according to Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik. Speaking to the Morgenpost yesterday, Slowik said the plates would allow cyclists involved in road accidents to be identified, thus preventing hit-and-runs. “We are seeing an increasing aggressiveness in road traffic – also among cyclists,” said Slowik. The proposal was firmly rejected by the ADFC cyclist club, however. “Accidents involving cyclists are mainly due to breaches of rules by other road users,” said an ADFC spokeswoman.

Thaipark, the Wilmersdorf food market and meeting place for Thai Berliners, has been given permanent permission to stay. The regular outdoor market, where dozens of vendors cook authentic Asian dishes in makeshift kitchens at Preußenpark, will become the official “Thai street food market”. On Fridays and Saturdays between March and October about 60 mobile stands will be licenced to operate in the park, with a permanent building to be constructed on site. The plans will finally allow the legitimate operation of the open-air kitchens, which have long been the subject of controversy because of noise and rubbish. The new facilities are set to open in 2021, though the market will continue to run in the meantime.

Warehouse hit by blaze, crocodile face mask confiscated

More than 100 firefighters were called to a huge fire at a warehouse in Mitte last night. Berlin’s fire service says the blaze, which totally gutted the two-story building, has now been brought under control. Nobody was injured in the fire, though Prinzenallee and Badstraße remained closed to traffic today. The cause of the blaze has yet to be established. 

A botched cover up: German customs officials have seized a face mask after finding that it was made of crocodile skin. The package – which was on its way to Berlin from the USA – was detected by customs officials in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate during checks in September. As a threatened species, crocodiles and their products cannot be traded without the required documentation. Whether the Berlin customer will face legal action is not yet clear.