Berlin, the confinement that never was

The history of the pandemic in Berlin it is a confinement that never was. Public life has not ceased to exist in the German capital despite the restrictions against expansion of the virus. The shops not considered essential had to lower the blind in the middle of last March -the majority have already reopened-, part of the bureaucracy and public services such as libraries, schools or kindergartens stopped working, the gyms are still closed, and bars, clubs and nightlife are paralyzed sine die, But neither the parks were emptied nor the runners They disappeared from the banks of the River Spree and cars stopped circulating in the streets. True to its anarchic essence and somewhat alien to the rest of Germany, Berlin has followed its own path.

And, nevertheless, the appearance of the German capital has changed with the health crisis. In the first place, its inhabitants have learned to live with tails. What was previously considered an uncomplicated process, now requires more time and patience. Berliners often have to queue in the middle of the street to shop at the Supermarket, withdraw money from Bank or grab a beer in the popular Spätis – shops open almost every hour that sell alcohol, tobacco, rolling paper and newspapers, the essentials for a good afternoon.

It is the consequence that the shops fulfill the conditions to open: limit the capacity It is the way to guarantee the safety distance of one and a half meters required by the authorities. To this we must add the use of face masks and of disinfecting liquid at the entrances of shops and public buildings. Hygienic prevention has become part of Berlin’s everyday life with surprising naturalness.

Stable pollution

A look at the evolution of air quality at Berlin center realizes that life has continued on the streets: according to data from the Federal Office for the EnvironmentSince the middle of last March, pollution levels in the German capital have remained stable, even with an upturn in “suspension particles” generated by human activity in late March. Greater use of car instead of public transport in the phase of greatest uncertainty it seems the cause.

If the Berliners have not stopped going out it is because it has not been prohibited: the Government never applied a general confinement to the entire population. Merkel he opposed alleging the need for citizens and families to go for a walk and get fresh air. A confinement after the long and dark Berlin winter would have supposed a social invoice difficult to defend politically.

In that decision, the official mortality of the virus in Germany: Despite being one of the countries in the world with the highest number of infected (more than 171,000), the mortality rate is much lower than in Italy or Spain. With just over 6,200 cases and 165 confirmed deaths, Berlin is no exception.

And despite having suffered less than other capitals, a key sector for berlin economy It is very bad: the bump for him tourism it is visible in places of attraction; emblematic sites such as the Brandenburg Gate or the Victory Column, generally flooded with tourism -especially with the arrival of spring-, are today half empty.

Without tourists

“My billing is down 80%,” says Georg, stoically and without apparent concern. pedicab drivers waiting for customers in the historic center. “I am optimistic because I do not have great claims,” ​​he says. He is convinced, however, that there will be a wave of closings of companies dependent on tourism and hospitality. It will not be his case because he does not have large expenses and can endure with little income, he says.

“I have lost 75% of my clients,” replies Ali, a cabbie of Pakistani origin and Berlin accent. I’ve never experienced anything like this in the three decades he’s been here. He is one of the thousands of small businessmen who requested emergency public aid of 5,000 euros to continue operating. “Despite the drop in passengers, I go out almost daily. It’s better than staying home in front of the TV.”

A few meters from the taxi, where months ago, queues of tourists formed to climb the glass dome of the Bundestag, today several hundred people gather, denying the pandemic. They are part of new urban landscape of Berlin. For weeks, a diverse mix of far-rightists, militants of the most diverse conspiracy theories and disgruntled citizens They protest against the limitation of fundamental rights.

Controlled by police, who warn the concentrates that they must keep the safety distance, the deniers they meet with meters in hand to make effective the meter and a half required. Meanwhile, a charlatan shouts his message through the microphone to the four winds: “The Federal Republic was never liberated from National Socialism. The German empire never ceased to exist. We continue to be an occupied country & rdquor ;.

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