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  • Berlin news update: Wednesday, February 17

Berlin

Berlin news update: Wednesday, February 17

Spahn promises free rapid tests for all, Berlin hotels host homeless, Senat wants U7 extended to airport, Pankow closes open-air gym and police arrest “weed-taxi” driver.

Image for Berlin news update: Wednesday, February 17

Pankow McFit has been forced to close its newly installed open-air gym. Photo: IMAGO / Bernd Friedel

Spahn promises free rapid tests for all, Berlin hotels host homeless, Senat wants U7 extended to airport

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) wants to make free tests available to every German resident by March 1. In an interview with RND on Tuesday, Spahn said the federal government would cover the costs of the test, which will be made available at pharmacies and specialised testing centres. Many will be “at-home” tests designed for home use, including versions by several companies that are awaiting approval. “These testing options can contribute to a safe everyday life, especially in schools and daycares,” he said.

A number of Berlin hotels have opened their doors to the city’s homeless population this winter. One such hotel is Friedrichshain’s Pension Reiter, which provides homeless residents with daily breakfast and hot dinners. The initiative, led by  Berlin’s charities, have secured a total of 1,426 beds across the city. The charities say that, impacted by social distancing rules, Berlin’s homeless shelters have run out of space this winter. 

Berlin’s Senat wants to extend the U7 U-Bahn line to the new BER airport. But don’t get your hopes up just yet: construction won’t start before “the end of the decade.” Franziska Giffey (SPD) has said extending the U7 has been one of her party’s plans for years. As Berliner Zeitung reports, the next step is to commission a cost-benefit analysis, which must be done before securing federal funding.   

Pankow closes open-air gym, police arrest “weed-taxi” driver

Photos of freshly installed open-air gyms have been shared right around Germany, but one Pankow McFit has been forced to close its outdoor setup. The gym had installed a number of machines in a carpark adjacent to its shuttered main location until officials from the local district office ordered them removed. McFit spokesperson Hagen Wingertszahn said no reason has been given for the closure and that he hopes to reopen the outdoor gym soon.  

A so-called “Drug Taxi” driver has been arrested after allegedly supplying a passenger with several kilos of marijuana. Plainclothes police observing the encounter say they found cash on the 31-year-old driver and two bags of cannabis on the 30-year-old passenger. A search of both mens’ apartments discovered more marijuana and a four-figure amount in cash.