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  • Berlin news update: Wednesday, February 3

Berlin

Berlin news update: Wednesday, February 3

Mayor Müller warns against loosening lockdown, SPD offices attacked with paint, housing associations challenge the Mietendeckel, new rules for tax returns, steak chain goes bankrupt and 242 iPads stolen from secondary school.

Michael Muller

Mayor Michael Müller has said that the seven-day incidence of 50 new infections per 100,000 people is a goal guiding lockdown decisions. Photo: IMAGO / sepp spiegl

Müller wants lockdown extended, SPD offices attacked with paint, housing associations challenge the Mietendeckel 

Mayor Michael Müller has spoken out against easing the current lockdown until the rate of new infections drops to certain levels. In a press conference yesterday, Müller said that the seven-day incidence of 50 new infections per 100,000 people is a goal that will guide future decisions. Restrictions, such as those on restaurants, fitness studios and cultural spaces, could be eased if infections drop below that figure. “We have to get well below 50,” Brandenburg Minister of Health Ursula Nonnemacher said. The rate is currently at 80.

Three SPD party offices were attacked with paint on Monday night. A newspaper delivery driver discovered a spray-painted window at the Pankow office on Tuesday morning and alerted police, who then found a letter of confession at the scene. An unknown perpetrator then splashed paint on the Lichtenberg office a few hours later, while police on a routine patrol discovered paint on the Neukölln offices soon after. The confession letter is being examined. Family Minister Fanziska Giffey, and SPD party member, called the attacks “cowardly”.  

The latest challenge to the Mietendeckel comes from a surprising source: housing cooperatives. Berlin’s housing cooperatives are known for cheap rent, as Der Spiegel reports, charging an average of €5.66 per square metre across their 95,000 apartments. But according to spokesperson Dirk Enzesberger, the Mietendeckel’s cap of €6.72 impacts too heavily on the associations’ existing contracts. “The rent cap prevents us from fulfilling our mandate to ensure a sustainable and socially balanced housing supply,” Enzesberger says. Four associations have joined the lawsuit. A decision on the Mietendeckel, which is currently before the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, is expected in the first half of 2021. 

New rules for tax returns, steak chain goes bankrupt and iPads stolen from secondary school

New rules and allowances have been announced for anyone submitting a 2020 tax return. As Berliner Zeitung reports, the tax-free threshold has increased €9,168 to €9,408. There’s also a home office allowance, meaning anyone required to work work from home during the pandemic can claim up to €600, as long as their expenses were already over €1,000 that year. Anyone who received at least €410 in Kurzarbeitergeld, or the short-time work allowance, must submit a tax return by August 2, as they may be eligible for a refund – or, in some cases, may have to pay more.

The German steakhouse chain Maredo is bankrupt and will close its Berlin branches. A letter to all employees seen by European Food Agency News said that all staff will be stood down as soon as possible. In the letter, Managing Director Klaus Farrenkopf said that Maredo, which has five Berlin locations and 40 across Germany, had applied for government financial aid, but was ineligible. “There is hardly any liquidity left in the company to pay wages and salaries,” the letter read. In 2019, total revenue reached €60 million.

Thieves stole 242 iPad tablets destined for students forced into remote learning from a secondary school in Gesundbrunnen. Police reports say thieves broke through several doors to reach the tablets, which had a combined value of almost €100,000. Police are still looking for any suspects.