North German state places four Berlin districts on quarantine list

Schlewsig-Holstein added the Berlin district of Schöneberg to its domestic risk area list on Monday, a move slammed by federal Health Minister Jens Spahn.

North German state places four Berlin districts on quarantine list
People enjoy the sun at the Carl-Zuckmayer-Brücke in Schöneberg in March 2020. Photo: DPA

High rates of new infections mean that Schöneberg-Tempelhof joins Neukölln, Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain and Berlin-Mitte on the list of Berlin districts the northwestern state considers risk areas.

People travelling to Schleswig-Holstein who have been in those districts in the past 14 days will now have to provide two negative tests, spaced out by five days, in order to avoid going into quarantine.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about changes to travel and quarantine rules in Germany in October

Spahn responded to the move by calling for Schleswig-Holstein to treat the capital city as one region, rather than breaking it up into boroughs.

“Berlin is a big dynamic city. Everyone here travels through several districts on a daily basis,” said Spahn. “I really wish that it would be treated as one contiguous city.”

He added that the coronavirus rules needed to be “understandable and easy to follow for every single citizen.”

In the entire capital the number of new cases over the last week still lies well below the limit of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants at 34.5 per 100,000. But in the four districts named above that number now lies above 50.

Berlin’s health minister, Dilek Kalayci, also appealed to other parts of the country to stop designating domestic areas as “risk regions.”

“There is no use in finger pointing. We need to act, we are running out of time,” she said.

There is concern that Schleswig-Holstein’s decision could disrupt family holidays during the autumn break. Many Berlin families have relations in the north.

READ ALSO: 'Stricter than other parts of Germany': These are Berlin's new coronavirus measures

‘Enforce the rules’

Spahn has also been highly critical of Berlin for what he describes as a lack of willingness to enforce coronavirus restrictions.

The Health Minister said he couldn't understand the fact that illegal parties were still happening in the capital and that in some restaurants masks wearers were looked at as if they had just come down from the moon.

“It isn’t a problem with a lack of rules,” he said. “It is a problem with the fact that rules aren’t being enforced all over the place – I think there is room for improvement in our beautiful capital city.”


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Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

It’s back again: amid sinking temperatures, the incidence of Covid-19 has been slowly rising in Germany. But is this enough to merit worrying about the virus?

Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

More people donning face masks in supermarkets, friends cancelling plans last minute due to getting sick with Covid-19. We might have seen some of those familiar reminders recently that the coronavirus is still around, but could there really be a resurgence of the virus like we experienced during the pandemic years?

According to virologists, the answer seems to be ‘maybe’: since July, the number of people newly infected with Covid-19 has been slowly rising from a very low level.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), nine people per 100,000 inhabitants became newly infected in Germany last week. A year ago, there were only around 270 reported cases.

Various Corona variants are currently on the loose in the country. According to the RKI,  the EG.5 (also called Eris) and XBB.1.16 lines were each detected in the week ending September 3rd with a share of just under 23 percent. 

The highly mutated variant BA.2.86 (Pirola), which is currently under observation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), also arrived in the country this week, according to RKI. 

High number of unreported case

The RKI epidemiologists also warned about a high number of unreported cases since hardly any testing is done. They pointed out that almost half of all registered sewage treatment plants report an increasing viral load in wastewater tests.

The number of hospital admissions has also increased slightly, but are still a far cry from the occupation rate amid the pandemic. Last week it was two per 100,000 inhabitants. In the intensive care units, only 1.2 percent of all beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Still, a good three-quarters (76.4 percent) of people in Germany have been vaccinated at least twice and thus have basic immunity, reported RKI. 

Since Monday, doctors’ offices have been vaccinating with the adapted vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer, available to anyone over 12 years old, with a vaccine for small children set to be released the following week and one for those between 5 and 11 to come out October 2nd.

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has so far only recommended that people over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who should get a Covid jab this autumn in Germany?

“The pandemic is over, the virus remains,” he said. “We cannot predict the course of coming waves of corona, but it is clear that older people and people with pre-existing conditions remain at higher risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19”

The RKI also recommended that people with a cold voluntarily wear a mask. Anyone exhibiting cough, cold, sore throat or other symptoms of a respiratory illness should voluntarily stay at home for three to five days and take regular corona self-tests. 

However, further measures such as contact restrictions are not necessary, he said.

One of many diseases

As of this autumn, Covid-19 could be one of many respiratory diseases. As with influenza, there are no longer absolute infection figures for coronavirus.

Saarbrücken pharmacist Thorsten Lehr told German broadcaster ZDF that self-protection through vaccinations, wearing a mask and getting tested when symptoms appear are prerequisites for surviving the Covid autumn well. 

Only a new, more aggressive mutation could completely turn the game around, he added.

On April 7th of this year, Germany removed the last of its over two-year long coronavirus restrictions, including mask-wearing in some public places.

READ ALSO: German doctors recommend Covid-19 self-tests amid new variant