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  • Daily Berlin news update: Monday, October 26


Daily Berlin news update: Monday, October 26

Fresh Covid rules for schools, chaos as Corona sceptics march, Robert Koch Institute offices attacked, and Schönefeld airport loses name. Plus: Berlin's millions in unpaid parking fines.

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Covid rules tightened for schools, Querdenker march ends in chaos

Older pupils are to wear masks in the classroom as Berlin schools tighten Covid rules for the new term. In addition to mandatory mask-wearing in common areas, from today students in the Oberstufe (aged from around 16) will be required to cover up in lessons, according to new Senat regulations. Further measures to be trialled this winter include air filters in school buildings and regular ventilation, Education Senator Sandra Scheeres confirmed today. The changes are intended to prevent children bringing infections into school after the holidays, though the city sought to allay concerns of mass transmission amongst youngsters. “Recent weeks have shown that schools and nurseries are not Corona hotspots,” Scheeres told RBB

There were chaotic scenes on Sunday as demonstrators marching against the Covid measures clashed with police. A gathering of 2000 so-called “Querdenker” (“lateral thinkers”) including Corona deniers and conspiracy theorists came together on Alexanderplatz at midday, with few wearing masks. The situation escalated after officers attempted to enforce Covid regulations, with smaller groups breaking away from the crowd and marching towards the end point in Friedrichshain without police escort. By 3.30pm organisers declared the demonstration over, though protestors resisted police requests to disperse. The atmosphere amidst the crowds was said to be tense, and journalists reported being threatened by those gathered. About 150 people took part in a counter-demonstration by Weberwiese U-Bahn station, ending in scuffles between the two sides. Arrests were made, though police did not confirm numbers.

Attack on Robert Koch Institute, Schönefeld airport rebranded

Police are investigating after the offices of the Robert Koch Institute were attacked on Saturday night. An incendiary device was thrown through a window of the Tempelhof building that serves as the headquarters of the disease control agency. The attack led to a fire in the premises, though security staff were able to extinguish it, preventing injury. Police suspect a political motive for the attack and have handed over the investigation to the State Office of Criminal Investigation. The RKI has played a central role in coordinating Germany’s response to the Corona pandemic.

With a week to go until BER opens, Schönefeld airport is no more – in name, that is. On Sunday the low-cost airport was rebadged “BER Terminal 5”, as airport authorities consolidate facilities at the new hub. Once BER’s main terminals are up and running on October 31, Terminal 5 is to accommodate budget airlines, with the exception of Easyjet which will occupy Terminal 1 at the new airport complex. Formerly East Berlin’s sole airport, Schönefeld’s ageing terminal is set to continue operating for another decade, according to airport bosses. In addition to the rebranding, Sunday also saw the official opening of the BER railway station located directly below the new terminals. For now, S-Bahn trains are to depart and arrive every ten minutes.

Thousands of Berliners set for rent cut, millions in unpaid parking fines 

An estimated 28,000 social housing tenants will pay less rent from November as the Mietendeckel takes full effect. The reprieve for tenants of housing associations including Gewobag and Degewo mirrors that of private renters, 340,000 of whom will see their rents cut as the second stage of the rent cap comes into force. According to the January 2020 law, if rents exceed the ceiling – fixed at the June 18, 2019 average – by more than 20 percent, tenants are entitled to a reduction from November 23. The six housing associations affected by the law own a total of 325,000 flats, according to the Berliner Zeitung

More than €3 million in parking fines have gone uncollected in Berlin, according to a report published by B.Z. today. A total of 53,412 parking tickets remained unpaid when the figures were counted at the end of 2019. While authorities do issue reminders and pursue offenders who fail to pay, a significant share of the payments remain uncollected due to the costs involved in pursuing cases. Berlin is sitting on nearly 200,000 outstanding payments totalling over €2 billion because authorities such as the Finanzamt and police are unable to collect debts.