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#25: Vaccine mandate, 2G+, housing plan, hospitals
And will Tesla really be able to open by New Year's?
With Austria entering a lockdown and planning compulsory Covid vaccinations from February 2022 (with holdouts potentially facing fines of up to €3,600), the debate on whether Germany needs to follow suit and impose a vaccine mandate is in full swing. In a joint op-ed in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Bavarian premier Markus Söder (CSU) and Baden-Württemberg premier Winfried Kretschmann (Grüne) write: “Compulsory vaccination is not a violation of civil liberties. Rather, it is a prerequisite for regaining our freedom.”
Outgoing health minister Jens Spahn (CDU) isn’t so down with the idea. On Deutschlandfunk radio Tuesday morning he said: “We won’t break this wave with mandatory vaccinations. It would be too late to have an effect. We must now reduce contacts and the state needs to act decisively.”
This is the same Jens Spahn who Friday announced that the Biontech vaccine would be rationed from November 30! Only 30 doses of Biontech would be available per week per Hausartzt (GP). That’s supposed to nudge people to get Moderna boosters so that unused doses of the American vaccine get injected instead of collecting dust. But it might already be having the wrong effect. Doctors are enraged. Wolfgang Kreischer, head of the Berlin GPs’ association, told Berliner Zeitung: “It's a scandal because it will slow down vaccinations. Practices are pulling out, patients are delaying appointments.” Kreischer added that GPs are already under immense strain thanks to lagging digitalisation and staff shortages. Is this really the time for vaccine stinginess?
Some are demanding Spahn’s resignation. But that should have happened months ago. His handling of the pandemic has been patchy at best and he should have probably stepped down or been fired when it came out that Spahn’s husband sold half a million face masks to his ministry earlier this year.
We can only hope Spahn will soon be gone and that chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz (SPD) appoints Karl Lauterbach (SPD) as health minister, an actual doctor and epidemiologist who seems to get what a pandemic is about.
More news below!
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The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, November 23
Fully vaccinated: 68.6% (68.5% Friday)
New cases in one day: +3,262 (2,321 Friday)
Total deaths: 3,784 (+7 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 349 (346 Friday)
🟢 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 3.8 (3.8 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 18.7% (16.8% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona information page
As elsewhere in Germany, hospital beds in the capital are again filling up with Covid patients or, as Marc Schreiner of the Berlin Hospital Association put it: “Berlin hospitals are postponing scheduled treatments, and operating in full crisis mode. We can no longer prevent a sharp rise in the number of intensive care patients in the coming days and weeks.” About 600 corona patients are being treated in the city’s hospitals, 176 of them in intensive care. Twelve months ago the situation was even worse: 1,100 corona patients occupying beds (293 in ICUs) - but we’re still at the start of the fourth wave. Another problem hospitals are dealing with is a staff shortage after many workers quit due to pandemic burnout and because politicians failed to OK a meaningful pay increase.
2G+ from Saturday
Berliner Zeitung reports that the Berlin government, the Senat, announced Tuesday afternoon the introduction of the 2G+ rule for all farmers markets, clubs and “body services” such as hairdressers, tattoo parlors and sexual services. Swimming pools and gyms are included. The new regulations kick in Saturday. Under 2G+, people must show proof of vaccination or having recovered from Covid-19 AND either a negative test OR wear a mask to be able to enter a business - the business decides which. Bars, restaurants, retail and culture and entertainment venues will remain 2G for now, meaning guests must be jabbed or recovered. Christmas markets will now also become 2G. The only exceptions are grocery stores, drugstores and pharmacies. We’ll continue to keep you updated on this ever-changing jumble of rules.
“Do not travel!”
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a “Level 4 traffic health notice” for Germany and many other European countries due to a “very high level of Covid-19”. Level 4 places us in the same category as Afghanistan.
New city gov wants to build - but not at Tempelhof
The parties that will likely form the next Senat (SPD, Die Grünen and Die Linke) emerged amidst negotiations to say they want to build 200,000 new flats by 2030, most of them in the low-to-mid-price range. Local Die Grünen boss Bettina Jarasch says they agreed to not build on the beloved Tempelhofer Feld for at least another five years. The politicians want state-owned housing companies to build 35,000 units within the next half decade. The private sector is supposed to build the rest. New areas in Treptow, Pankow, Reinickendorf and Tegel are to be opened up to construction.
And remember the Expropriate Deutsches Wohnen & Co. referendum that a majority of Berlin voters supported at the ballot box? It’s a contentious issue because mayor-to-be Franziska Giffey (SPD) opposes forcing large landlords to sell their flats to the state, while many in the Greens and Die Linke are in favour. After a 15-hour meeting, the parties agreed to set up a commission to probe the feasibility of such a project - a nice way to make it disappear for a while.
Arson attack on Green Party office?
Police say a Die Grünen office in Berlin-Reinickendorf was slightly damaged by a possible arson attack Monday night. Unknown persons set fire to the door frame of the office. A passerby noticed the flames around 2am and notified the fire department. Police say the office had already been damaged in a separate incident.
Tesla up and running by New Year’s?
The final online process for citizens to submit their complaints about the Tesla factory sprouting out of the ground in Grünheide to the east of the city ended Monday. More than 800 objections have been sent in, mostly concerning the plant’s impact on groundwater, traffic and noise pollution in the area. Officially all complaints must be addressed before the Brandenburg State Environment Agency can give the final go-ahead and issue a proper building permit (all permits have been “provisional” till now). Tesla is raring to go: the robots, the foundry and the paint shop are already being tested. Brandenburg economics minister Jörg Steinbach said he could imagine cars rolling off the production line by the end of the year. No pressure!
Around the World in 14 Films
Berlin’s most international film fest kicks off December 2 with dark Norwegian romantic comedy The Worst Person in the World, a movie that apparently floored the audience at the Cannes Festival - followed by flicks from every corner of our pandemic-stricken globe. Nearly all movies are being shown in the original language with English subtitles. The info. Did we mention it’s also the Französische Filmwoche?
Sex parties are nothing new in Berlin. An 1891 orgy at the Grünewald hunting palace among 15 members of the royal court led to the unfortunately named Kotze Affair. Leberecht von Kotze is suspected of writing anonymously about the orgy, angering other partiegoers. The scandal led to several duels - but no musical about it yet.