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German capital mulls fresh restrictions as COVID-19 infections rise

People attend a Love World Peace Parade from Brandenburg gate to Victory Column on the occasion of World Peace Day, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin, Germany, September 21, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke
People attend a Love World Peace Parade from Brandenburg gate to Victory Column in Berlin, Germany, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Berlin’s senate is meeting on Tuesday to discuss what measures they can deploy to contain the surging numbers of new coronavirus cases in the capital.

Berlin is the latest major EU capital to face a surge in cases. While its status-quo is not as critical as in Madrid, which has imposed a partial lockdown on more than three million inhabitants, or Paris, where bars and gyms will be shut for the next two weeks, Berlin authorities are anxious to get the rising infections under control.

Four out of 12 districts in Berlin are in the “red” zone based on the last seven days’ new cases, meaning there have been more than 50 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The district of Neukölln recorded 87.6 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days. For the city as a whole, however, that figure is lower, at 34.5 per 100,000.


“If we don't act now, we'll end up in lockdown again,” Berlin mayor Michael Müller told an evening news show on Monday.

Müller had sharp words for the “party-mad” people meeting in Berlin parks. “There are a few hundred who have been jeopardising our success for the entire urban community in recent months,” he said.

Watch: Merkel calls for courage in coronavirus crisis on Germany reunification anniversary

READ MORE: ‘More masks, less alcohol’: German state that led first lockdown could re-impose rules

A ban on alcohol sales after a cut-off time is one suggestion on the table at the Senate’s meeting today, as is potentially closing food and beverage outlets earlier in the evenings.

Federal health minister Jens Spahn in turn criticised Berlin authorities for not enforcing the masks and distancing rules in the city.

The official tourism board of Berlin said this week that it will pull all of its advertising for the time being. Burkhardt Kieker, the head of Visit Berlin, told Tagespiegel newspaper that it “makes no sense” to encourage people to visit the city in light of the growing coronavirus cases.

Germany’s total confirmed cases has now risen to 304,895, with 9,554 reported deaths from the virus. While those numbers remain much lower than in Spain, France, and the UK, chancellor Angela Merkel warned last month that the Germany risked surging cases like its EU neighbours if people began to ignore the rules on distancing, mask wearing and hygiene.

Merkel reportedly told top party members in September that the number of cases could surge to over 19,000 a day if the upwards trend continues through the end of the year.

Watch: What is a no-deal Brexit and what are the potential consequences?