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  • Berlin news update: Wednesday, January 13

Berlin

Berlin news update: Wednesday, January 13

Senat decides on travel limits, UK coronavirus variant detected in Berlin, vaccinations for hospital staff underway, Berlin air quality meets targets, students hack into FU Berlin and asylum seeker numbers down.

Image for Berlin news update: Wednesday, January 13

Berlin has met its annual air pollution targets for the first time. Photo: Udo / Creative Commons

Senat decides on travel limits, new coronavirus variant detected in Berlin, vaccinations for hospital staff underway

The Senat yesterday agreed to impose a 15-kilometre travel limit for Berlin should the city’s overall seven-day infection rate reach 200 cases per 100,000 residents. Several neighbourhoods, such as Spandau, Pankow and Treptow-Köpenick have already exceeded that number. When the rule comes into effect, residents may only leave the 15-kilometre radius under special circumstances, such as caring for a sick relative. As of Tuesday, Berlin’s seven-day incidence was at 199.9. It will need to be below 200 for at least seven days for the travel ban to be removed.

The new variant of the coronavirus first detected in the UK has been confirmed in Berlin for the first time, authorities announced. Two cases were discovered earlier this month, including in one person who had recently visited the UK. Both have since recovered. It is believed this variant is more contagious than other strains, with its discovery prompting a range of travel bans. 

The vaccination programme for Berlin’s hospital employees has begun. According to information from the health administration released today, priority is given to older workers who are in close contact with Covid-19 patients. A spokesperson from Bethel Berlin hospital in Lichterfelde says around 80 percent of employees are willing to be vaccinated. “The readiness increases daily,” he said. As of Tuesday, 10,000 Berliners have been vaccinated.

Berlin air quality meets targets, students hack into FU Berlin, asylum seeker numbers down

Berlin has met its annual air pollution targets for the first time. In 2020, nitrogen dioxide pollution was down 17 percent from the previous year, which meant the city’s average air pollution levels met their targets for the first time since the limits were introduced in 2010. The most heavily polluted street was Karl-Marx-Straße in Neukölln. Authorities attribute the better air quality to fewer cars on the road during the pandemic, driving bans for some diesel vehicles and more environmentally-friendly, modern cars. In spring alone, the Berlin Senat estimates pollution dropped by up to 20 percent.

A dream come true? On Tuesday, students at FU Berlin were able to log onto their university’s website to change exam grades and view other “sensitive information”. The security lapse only lasted an hour and followed a period of maintenance earlier in the day. Students who logged on were also able to view the grades of their classmates and access other data that stretched back to 2005. It’s now up to the university to investigate how many results, if any, were inappropriately edited.

At least 25 percent fewer asylum seekers were accepted in Berlin in 2020 compared with the previous year. The Berlin State Office for Refugee Affairs blames border closures for the significant drop in numbers, which limited arrivals to 250 to 300 people per month in spring. The highest numbers of asylum seekers come from Moldova, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq and Iran from a total of 4,589 new arrivals.