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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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.