The number of new infections is rising, doctors are increasingly concerned, vaccinations are suspended - until Easter, the situation in Berlin will hardly relax. And while Brandenburg's government is even threatening to tighten the Corona measures, Berlin's health senator Dilek Kalayci (SPD) on Monday contradicted all those who wanted to go on vacation over Easter.
"We must prepare for a difficult time," Kalayci told the health committee of the House of Representatives. There is "an upward momentum", in view of the forecasts of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), rising case numbers are also expected for Berlin. In addition, it became known only hours after the committee meeting, vaccination dates are suspended - the federal government had the use of the preparation of Astrazeneca stopped.
Also on Monday, politicians and doctors warned against easing the schedule, as many have called for Easter. "At the moment, there is no room for further relaxation," said Brandenburg Health Minister Ursula Nonnemacher (Greens). The country is approaching the critical incidence level of 100, she said, and a new lockdown may have to be initiated.
"It's not a question of whether we need a lockdown - it will be necessary. Because in all likelihood, the seven-day incidence of 100 will also be reached in Berlin by the end of the month," Jörg Weimann, who designed the Covid 19 concept for Berlin's intensive care units, told the Tagesspiegel. "A temporary tightening of measures now could prevent worse."
That restaurants will open at Easter, as many hoped, is unlikely. No Senate plans are currently known for outdoor restaurants either. There is still no binding concept of how the landlords will ensure that all guests can show negative Corona tests. Criticism came from the opposition. Berlin has millions in rapid tests at its disposal, said FDP health politician Florian Kluckert, adding that the Senate has had time to develop hygiene concepts with restaurateurs: "So outdoor catering could open."
"Around a quarter are concerned with going out of business"
A year after the start of the Corona crisis, Berlin's restaurateurs are scrambling to open - with a quarter fearing they will have to go out of business. "About a third of the hotels are currently closed, the gastronomy completely," Thomas Lengfelder, managing director of the Hotel and Restaurant Association told the German Press Agency. He said it was the worst crisis since World War II.
Entrepreneurs are still exempt from having to file for insolvency until the end of April. "However, about a quarter are dealing with the closure of the business," said Lengfelder. Under strict conditions, however, retailers have been allowed to open for a few days. To visit many stores, an appointment is necessary. The health expert of the Berlin CDU, Tim-Christopher Zeelen, said to warn of contagions at Easter is well-fair. After the relaxations a week ago, infections were foreseeable, but concepts on how to deal with them were still missing.
Doctors nationwide are warning that the number of corona cases in intensive care units in May could match the situation in the second wave. This is according to a forecast by the German Association of Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine Physicians (Divi). In particular, if the "emergency brake" agreed upon by the federal and state governments is not applied at a seven-day incidence of 100 per 100,000 inhabitants for three consecutive days, it will become dangerous. A spokesman for Berlin's health senator said there is no "automatism" even with an incidence of 100. The Senate would discuss what measures should then be taken.
After all, there are now 109 rapid test centers in Berlin where anyone can be tested for Sars-CoV-2 once a week free of charge - last week there were 50. Starting this week, testing will also take place in some pharmacies and clinics. In Berlin, the seven-day incidence had risen to 75 new Sars CoV-2 cases per 100,000 population, a far cry from the advised 50.
Intensive care physicians call for new lockdown
When the red-red-green state government meets this Tuesday, the demands of renowned physicians are likely to play a role: Especially because of the more contagious Corona mutation B.1.1.7, intensive care physicians are pleading for a new lockdown to slow down the third wave of the pandemic. "A temporary tightening of corona measures now could prevent worse," said Jörg Weimann; the chief physician had helped design the concept that prepared Berlin's hospitals for the second coronavirus wave.
It is undisputed that vaccination is still the central way out of the corona crisis. The only problem is that the German government has suspended vaccinations with Astrazeneca. Senator Kalayci announced that the Corona vaccination centers in Tegel and Tempelhof would remain closed for the time being. Only the British-Swedish preparation was administered there.
However, vaccination in clinics as well as the pilot project in surgeries will also be stopped. Of all things, Astrazeneca was the last company to reach an agreement between the Senate and panel doctors - in the next few days, 100 practices were to use it to vaccinate those of their patients who, as chronically ill patients, are particularly at risk of contracting Covid-19. The AfD faction now demands a special meeting of the health committee, because "the vaccination concept for Berlin has finally proven to be unsuitable with today's decision."
The work of the vaccination centers is coordinated by the German Red Cross, whose Berlin president Mario Czaja said, "This is a dramatic development. We hope for quick clarity from the scientific community so that the uncertainties are completely eliminated. Vaccination with the other substances must now be pushed all the more." Nearly 60,000 Berliners have received an initial vaccination with the substance - with the second dose to follow up to three months later.
The Berlin Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, which is responsible for the practices, said that physicians in private practice could also work with the vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Like Astrazeneca, both preparations are also comparatively easy to transport and store.
Photo by Erik Mclean