#57: School for refugees, disappearing corona regs, protest party, US flights
And they're building ever-fewer new apartments.
Hello 20 Percent!
Who let me be an adult?
I had to run several errands that involved traversing the town before finalizing this newsletter and, like a moron, I hopped in my car. My mistake became quickly evident on Unter den Linden when I learned from the Polizei that the entire government/Tiergarten area had been sealed off because of both an anti-vaxx demo (very little left to protest, really) and preparations for Sunday’s pro-Ukraine demonstration. They had even sealed off my planned detours, meaning I had to detour around my detour.
After arrival in Charlottenburg, parking was a nightmare. During my subsequent jaunt to my Kreuzberg office I was vexed by more than a handful of unexpected construction sites — a Berlin hobby — and then a road closure related to an accident involving a van and a bike as well as the anti-car posts in the Wrangel neighborhood.
You might be surprised when I say I think my journey should have been even more difficult, but I think it should (save for the bike/car accident) to encourage me to look for alternate routes. I did some quick math and public transport would have been quicker. And I could have done that math before I left.
Like an adult.
Have a good weekend!
The Berlin corona stats for Friday, March 18
Received booster: 58.9% (58.8% Tuesday)
New cases in one day: 7,953 (9,372 Tuesday)
Total deaths: 4,315 (+10 over Tuesday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 1,144.9 (871.8 Tuesday)
🔴 7-day hospitalisation incidence (also per 100,000): 18.4 (18. Tuesday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 10% (10.4% Tuesday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
School for Ukrainian refugees begins Monday
Classes for school-age Ukrainian refugees will begin Monday at the Lessing Gymnasium in Wedding, according to the Morgenpost. The classes are first planned as welcome-classes that will focus on helping the kids integrate into Germany, at least in part by learning German. The school is aware of criticism from Iryna Tybinka, Ukraine’s general consul in Germany, that kids should attend classes in Ukrainian and according to Ukrainian education plans so that they can easily reintegrate when the war ends but also want the kids to adapt to Germany since their return is as-yet unclear. The class will first start with just 5 kids between 11 and 16 years old though it’s expected to grow quickly. Principal Michael Wüstenberg is already looking for additional space. About 28,000 Ukrainian refugees have now registered in Berlin — they’re having to wait in lengthy lines at local district offices and the German military — the Bundeswehr — has said it will allow 80 soldiers to help with administrative duties. The army just pulled its soldiers off similar corona-related assignments.
Corona regs going. Mostly.
Berlin will likely lift most corona regulations April 1, removing mask requirements everywhere except in medical or care facilities and train travel, and removing testing requirements for public activities. Schoolkids will no longer have to wear masks though corona testing will continue at as-yet undetermined intervals. Berlin daycares can resume normal — ergo 2019-level — operations beginning today. The government will also no longer pay for tests, meaning those shifty bike- and tent-based centers are likely to disappear overnight. The new rules are not yet final because they depend on a new infectious disease law being passed today by Germany’s two legislative bodies (the Bundesrat and the Bundestag, for those hoping to someday pass the citizenship test). The federal government is expected to leave basic protections in place, like masks in medical facilities, and allow state governments to impose more strict measures if certain hotspot conditions are met such as rising infection and hospitalization rates. While Germany itself has a record number of infections, Berlin has the second-lowest incidence among the country’s 16 states.
Party to protest
Tens or even hundreds of thousands of people on Sunday are again expected to protest against the invasion of Ukraine on Strasse des 17. Juni between the Brandenburg Gate and Siegessäule. A handful of German pop stars you’ve never heard of will perform at 3pm at the gate in a show called the Sound of Peace, which will be broadcast on two private broadcasters you’ve also never heard of (ProSieben and Sat. 1). It’s never a Berlin protest until there’s music.
Less new construction
So much for the free market solving everyone’s problems — Berlin last year issued 8.5 percent fewer building permits for residential construction, the fifth consecutive annual decline, according to the Berlin-Brandenburg statistics office. Brandenburg, the leafy hinterlands surrounding Berlin, saw a 16.5 percent leap in new permits, indicating that the focus is moving to the suburbs. Nationally, permits for new multi-family housing rose 2.2 percent last year. The decline in Berlin is problematic politically because the new government has promised to build 20,000 new apartments per year and the permits represent just 18,716 units, some of which won’t be built for years, if at all. Many property companies take out building permits to boost the value of their properties rather than to actually build.
North America again, at least
US airline United will begin direct flights between BER and Newark airport (across the Hudson from Manhattan) March 28 and then begin daily non-stop flights to Washington D.C. May 27, finally reconnecting our woefully undersized airport with the US. In pre-corona, pre-BER times (remember Tegel?) even discount flyers like Air Berlin offered non-stop service to the US. Although, yes, we should all be travelling less, let’s hope BER becomes even internationaler in the future.
Berlin has over 175 museums (I guess that includes the Disgusting Food Museum (which used to be the currywurst museum) and other bizarre, money-making entries), meaning it has more museums than rainy days (106). Both facts are thanks government site, berlin.de.