In Brief: Merkel and state leaders to consider ‘lockdown light’ in light of record COVID-19 numbers

Nearly 15,000 new cases were reported across Germany from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to the country’s disease prevention authority.

Photo by derek braithwaite on Unsplash

 

Updated on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 10:00 a.m.

By Sylvia Cunningham and William Glucroft

Berlin health officials reported a record number of new coronavirus cases in the city on Tuesday. A total of 1,040 new infections were reported over a 24-hour period.

In light of rising COVID-19 cases, Berlin senators agreed to limit the number of people permitted at public events.

The maximum number of people allowed at public events held indoors will be reduced from 1,000 to 300, while the maximum number permitted at outdoor events will be dropped from 5,000 to 500.

Mayor Michael Müller tweeted this restriction may be lifted on a case-by-case basis, depending on if a Senate-approved hygiene plan is in place.

Berlin senators also plan to extend a rule restricting the opening hours of the city’s restaurants and bars until at least mid-November.

Currently most Berlin establishments must close between 11 p.m. and 6 the following morning, although about 30 bars and restaurants are exempt after challenging the rule in the city’s courts.

Those restaurants and bars must however stop serving alcohol after 11 p.m.

Berlin Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz told reporters on Tuesday the Senate was waiting to see what comes from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s meeting with state leaders before deciding on more concrete measures.

Merkel and the 16 heads of state will be discussing the possibility of a “lockdown light,” something most Germans already believe is in the cards.

***

Nearly two-thirds of Germans expect to see restaurants, shops and even schools close in the wake of skyrocketing infection numbers. That’s according to a YouGov poll on behalf of the DPA news agency.

Another poll, for public broadcaster ARD, suggests half of Germans consider the existing restrictions are enough to combat the pandemic. About one-third think the rules do not go far enough.

The tabloid Bild reports the chancellor is considering closing restaurants and bars but keeping schools open in all but the hardest hit parts of the country.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he expects to see 20,000 new cases daily by the end of the week. That’s nearly 5,000 more cases than was reported on Wednesday by the country’s disease prevention authority, the Robert Koch Institute.

***

The trial of a Berlin policeman charged in a fatal crash near Alexanderplatz that killed a woman driver began on Tuesday.

Prosecutors say at the time of the January 2018 crash, the now 53-year-old was speeding in his patrol car out of a tunnel at over 130 kilometers per hour – that’s a little over 80 miles per hour.

The officer is charged with negligent homicide.

According to public broadcaster rbb, a blood sample taken at Berlin’s Charité hospital showed his blood alcohol level was 1.24 promille, which is above the legal limit.

But an additional charge against the policeman related to drunk driving was dropped after a court ruled his medical file was illegally obtained.

The officer remained silent on Tuesday in court. His lawyer said on his behalf that he was very sorry for the incident.

This news is brought to you in cooperation with Berliner Rundfunk.  

Whether it’s our coverage of the coronavirus, rent freezes or more light-hearted subjects like Berlin’s pandas, you can count us for factual and informative content. We are the go-to source for the English-as-a-common-language community in Berlin and beyond. The pandemic will challenge us to find new ways of doing reporting, but we will continue to bring you the programming you love and news you can trust. We are a listener-funded public radio station, driven by donors like you. So please consider donating today to keep us on air, online and in your community.