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  • Daily Berlin Corona update: Wednesday, March 18

Berlin

Daily Berlin Corona update: Wednesday, March 18

The latest number of infected Berliners, Charité launches free Corona app, police close down shops, Abitur dates in limbo and the city plans financial aid for freelancers. Plus the controversy of the day: playgrounds!

Image for Daily Berlin Corona update: Wednesday, March 18

As of Wednesday night, the officially confirmed number of Corona infections in Berlin lies at 519.

The latest numbers are in: on Wednesday evening the Senat’s Health Office declared that so far, 519 Berliners have tested positive for Coronavirus, which is up 35 percent from Tuesday. Among the infected are 286 men and 232 women, one person’s gender is unknown. Isolated in hospitals are 28 people, 9 in intensive care, the rest are quarantined in their homes.

Testing and treatment in action

These days, if you’ve got a sore throat or a cough, you can’t help but fear the worst. At noon today, the Senat’s Health Office said that 9253 people have been tested for the Coronavirus between March 9 and 15, but only 394 of the swabs showed an infection.  

Berlin Health Senator Dilek Kalayci (SPD) and her Brandenburg equivalent have announced available hospital beds with respirators in both Länder will be doubled, according to the Tagesspiegel. The daily reports that so far, severe cases from Brandenburg are being sent to Berlin hospitals, notably the Charité.

While treating the serious Covid-19 cases, the Charité has, in cooperation with non-profit Data4Life, launched CovApp, an app to help people determine whether they should get tested for the virus. Based on a 10-minute questionnaire the app tells the user if they need to call a hotline and get set up for testing, contact their GP or self-isolate at home.

Many shops closed

As of this morning, most shops in the city have had to close their doors – or been closed by the police who confirmed on Twitter that 130 offenders had to be shut down by officials. Not affected by the measure are any shops selling food or drinks (yes, this includes your local Späti!), pharmacies, drugstores, petrol stations, news agents, banks, post offices, hardware stores, car and bike repair shops, pet stores and services such as hair dressers, laundromats and dry cleaners. Meanwhile the district of Pankow is cracking down on nail parlours in their “restrictive” interpretation of the city’s new regulations.

Whether supermarkets will be open on Sundays is still to be decided. They will receive deliveries over the weekend, but cashiers might not have to work, a Senat spokesperson told Tagesspiegel.

No curfew for Berlin

While a town in Bavaria has become Germany’s first to order a complete lockdown, Mayor Müller said at a press conference this afternoon that he hopes a curfew can be avoided in Berlin. He asked the public to be reasonable in how they use the freedoms they still have.

For Müller himself there might not be much more freedom in the days ahead: turns out the mayor might need to be quarantined! At an event at the Abgeordnetenhaus on March 9, he was sitting near and talking to Israeli ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff, who has tested positive.

Playground controversy and Abitur

Despite the national guidelines recommending closing off playgrounds, Berlin has decided to keep them open. Today, however, five districts – Mitte, Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Reinickendorf, Steglitz-Zehlendorf and Spandau – declared there’s no more play in their Spielplatz. Mayor Müller said it was difficult to close playgrounds, because it would be hard to enforce. And indeed, outside EXB’s offices in Mitte, kids were enjoying the fine weather amongst the swings and sand boxes.

Berlin and Brandenburg’s Education Senators announced they will not dictate when Abitur exams take place. They are instead leaving the decisions to the schools themselves. Berlin high schools have until March 20 to notify the authorities whether they will stick with the original exam dates or resort to the re-sit slots. Student representatives are not amused.

Solidarity prevails

To cushion the economic blow to Berlin’s many freelancers in the creative and media industries, the Senat is preparing targeted financial aid. A spokesperson told Morgenpost that the mayor has proposed a one-off payment of €15,000 to individual freelancers and people who are self-employed. According to the report the Senat would expect 20,000 applications and has also promised €300 million for endangered local businesses.  

To protect financially vulnerable tenants in times of the Corona crisis, the German Justice Minister is fielding options to help. In Berlin, the six city-owned housing associations have promised an accommodating treatment of tenants unable to pay their rent during the pandemic, a spokesperson told the Tagesspiegel. According to the report, Berlin Building Senator Latrin Lompscher (Die Linke) has asked the associations to “strengthen protection for tenants … with the aim of preventing evictions”. There was no further information about city plans to support tenants of privately owned flats.

A symbolic act of solidarity, last night’s public applause for doctors, nursing staff, supermarket employees and other professionals helping keep essential services and infrastructure running was a success. At nine o’clock in the evening, many Berliners opened their windows or stepped out onto their balconies to show their appreciation with applause, following the example of Spain and other countries.

Merkel addresses nation

For the first time since the virus hit Germany, Chancellor Merkel has addressed the nation in a dramatic speech. She called Corona a historic challenge which could only be overcome in unison: “It is down to each and every one of us […] The situation is serious and the outcome is open. This means: it will […] depend on how disciplined everyone follows and implements the rules.” Couldn’t have said it in a more German way, Frau Kanzlerin!

Merkel’s Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz has announced on Twitter that he will be staying at home after developing cold symptoms. He wants to be tested for the Coronavirus. 

The national count of Corona infected has passed the 10.000 mark today, 26 people have died from Covid-19. Still Germany is not imposing a general curfew as France and Italy have done.