#37: Omicron, vaxx push, sexism, transphobia, K-9 cops, Babelsberg
Plus some alien art and our Patreon, so you can support us.
As predicted, omicron is sweeping across Germany and rapidly becoming the dominant strain of the coronavirus. Infection rates have doubled this week (see below), yet hospitalisations and deaths have remained stable.
The variant’s behaviour has injected new doubts into the debate over mandatory vaccinations.
Before Christmas, the new German government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had promised to look into compulsory vaccinations for all after New Years, but has now postponed a scheduled Bundestag parliamentary debate. Some politicians are getting cold feet thanks to the widespread anti-vaxx demonstrations across the country, some of which have turned violent. Besides, a number of critical questions are hard to answer right now:
If omicron is less dangerous than previous variants of the coronavirus, can we force everyone to get jabbed?
If the efficacy of shots wears off after a few months, can we require the entire population to get a booster several times a year?
Who knows what other variants show up and whether vaccinations will be effective against them?
There’s also a practical issue: Germany has no vaccination registry, so enforcement of mandatory vaccination would be difficult. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) opposes such a registry.
This is going to be a long winter of … debate. I’m guessing we’ll end up with mandatory vaccinations only for those in some key professions.
But what about the situation right now? Although omicron is in sum milder, the sheer number of infections expected could mean cuts in essential services if too many workers go into quarantine. That will be the subject of today’s meeting between Olaf Scholz and the 16 state heads. Health minister Karl Lauterbach says bars and restaurants remain some of the worst infection hotspots.
A draft of the new rules already shared with the press says bars and restaurants will switch to 2G+ from January 15, meaning vaccinated or recovered plus proof of a booster shot or recent negative corona test.
Also in the draft is a loosening of quarantine rules: people who have come into contact with an infected person but who have received a booster jab won’t have to self-isolate. Others can leave quarantine after seven days rather than ten if they test negative. Kids in schools and kindergartens will be able to test out of isolation after five days.
Who knows exactly what omicron has in store. Whatever happens, we’ll keep you updated.
More news below!
The Berlin corona stats for Friday, January 7
Fully vaccinated: 72.2% (71.8% Tuesday)
New cases in one day: +5,962 (3,196 Tuesday)
Total deaths: 4,032 (+12 over Tuesday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 511.5 (286.7 Tuesday)
🟢 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 3.8 (3.0 Tuesday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 18.2% (18.5% Tuesday)
Source: Berlin’s corona information page
New vaccination strategy
Mayor Fransziska Giffey (SPD) presented her new vaccination strategy this week. It includes mobile immunisation units that would try to get more people jabbed who hadn’t done so due to “language problems”. Giffey said she saw potential in neighbourhoods such as Wedding, Neukölln and Spandau. It seems like the push is based on fuzzy data, though: when the taz newspaper asked the health department about stats on vaccination rates among various immigrant groups, they answered: “An analysis of the correlations between migration status/social situation and vaccination status has not yet been carried out within the framework of health reporting.”
Damages for sexist article
A Berlin court has ordered Roland Tichy, publisher of the conservative magazine Tichys Einblick, to pay €10,000 in damages to local SPD politician Sawsan Chebli. In a 2020 column, the publication described Chebli in offensive, sexist language, the judge found. Chebli’s lawyer praised the verdict: “It is to be welcomed that the German judiciary makes it clear that it will not only respond to brutalisation, hatred and defamation with injunctions, but also with monetary compensation.”
The Lichtenberg grave of Ella Nik Bayan, the trans woman who fled Iran and set herself on fire on Alexanderplatz last autumn, was repeatedly desecrated over the past few days. The 40-year-old died as a result of severe burns in hospital in September. “We are shocked and angry that transphobic violence against Ella continues even after her death,” said queer assocation LSVD in a statement. “The sight of her desecrated grave is unbearable. This deliberately orchestrated message of hate is a transphobic crime.”
K-9 cops on leave
Under a new animal welfare law that kicked in at the beginning of the year, the Berlin police are forbidden from deploying 49 of their 130 dogs. The legislation forbids the deliberate use of cruel methods during the training of protection dogs. “They have to hold on to a criminal even if he hits them,” a police officer told the tabloid B.Z.Handlers simulate such situations with the animals in training. To signal a dog should loosen its grip, the handler yanks on the dog’s choke collar, restricting its breathing. The Polizei says it’s working on a workaround so that dogs can resume active duty. Sniffer dogs are not affected by the law.
Studio Babelsberg sold
The legendary Potsdam film studio, founded in 1912, has been sold to private equity firm TPG Real Estate Partners, which also owns the Chicago-based Cinespace Film Studios, the largest US studio outside Hollywood. Over the years, Babelsberg produced classics like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Nazi propaganda films, East German DEFA movies, as well as big Hollywood productions.
The interrogation/execution scene in Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 Inglorious Basterds (a Babelsberg production) was shot outside the sprawling Fort Hahneberg, an overgrown Prussian military structure hidden in the forest just off of Heerstraße in Spandau. A local historical association offers tours during warmer months, starting in April.
Last chance: HR Giger & Mire Lee
While we’re on the subject of Hollywood blockbusters: I had no idea that the creature in Alien was created by a Swiss artist. Anyhow, through January 16, you can still catch the now-deceased HR Giger’s work juxtaposed with Korean artist Mire Less at the Schinkel Pavillon in Mitte. Expect “phantasmagorias of humans and machines forming an indissoluble whole and constantly shifting between the stages of decline and resilience, lust and revulsion, hopelessness and power”. Can’t wait! The info.
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