City's plan for reopening should incidence rates decline

After a month below 35, the city's clubs might be able to welcome a limited number of guests.

Could Berlin's plan pave the way for the return of scenes like these in Prenzlauer Berg?
Could Berlin's plan pave the way for the return of scenes like these in Prenzlauer Berg?Imago

Berlin-Two months into the latest lockdown, the city's government met Tuesday to discuss a draft of a tiered plan to partially reopen portions of Berlin including retail, culture, and bars and restaraunts. The draft is dated 21 February and was made available to the Berliner Zeitung.

Mayor Michael Müller reportedly wants to present the draft to Chancellor Angela Merkel at the next meeting between the chancellor and the heads of the country's 16 states. The draft could potentially become a blueprint for all of Germany.

The plan proposes six stages to reopen the country over several weeks and uses the incidence rate – the number of new infections per 100,000 people per week – as a key trigger for the stages. The reproduction rate – how many people an infected person infects – as well as the availability of intensive care beds, the rate of change in incidence and, in the long term, the vaccination rate are all also considered.

The first two levels are divided into Risk Level A, when the incidence is above 100, and Risk Level B, when the incidence is above 50 but below 100. Although a lockdown would remain for both risk levels, under Level B children under 12 would be allowed to participate in group sports and individual sports such as jogging would remain allowed outside.

Somebody mentioned clubs reopening

Levels three through six are called clusters. Cluster 0, when the incidence is between 50 and 35, would permit group sports with up to 10 people outdoors again. Indoor sports and events could be allowed but limited with fixed numbers of participants, attendance lists and hygiene concepts.

Cluster 1, with an incidence below 35 for at least a week, would allow contract restrictions to be expanded to 5 people from 2 households. Museums and retail stores could also gradually reopen. Outdoor theatre and cinema events as well as indoor individual exercise – in gyms – would be allowed. Outdoor sports would only require social distancing.

Restaurants could reopen outdoors areas – a maximum of five people from two households could sit at one table. Outdoor events with a maximum of 250 people would also be permissable.

If the incidence level remains below 35 for another 14 days, Cluster 2 would allow up to 10 people from 2 households to meet. Libraries, restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas and opera houses could open with hygiene concepts and limited attendance. Only four people from two households could sit at one table in a bar and indoor team sports with a maximum of 10 people would be allowed. Outdoor sports would be unrestricted.

Overnight stays for tourism would also be allowed and events would be limited to 500 outside and 150 indoors. 

After an additional 14 days below 35, life might become even more normal under Cluster 3. Clubs could reopen with a hygiene plan and indoor events with up to 250 people would also be permitted. Outdoor events could host 750.

Still, the plan is just a draft and its chances of becoming a reality are unclear. 

Ramona Pop (Greens), the city's finance minister, and culture minister Klaus Lederer (Left) poured cold water on the euphoria sparked by the plan. They said the dangers posed by mutations made a continuation of the lockdown necessary - the weeks-long decline in new infections has since reversed.

Hope but nothing more

"We are in a very difficult intermediate situation," Lederer said following a government meeting Tuesday. "And the answers to how to deal with this situation have not yet been found."

Pop said she still thinks opening schools this week and hair salons 1 March is right but said the proposed tiered plan didn't come up in Tuesday's meeting. 

"There is no discernible linear path to incidence 35 at this time," Pop said, blaming the mutations. "The tiered opening opportunities provides hope but it's not something that can be agreed in the next couple of days."

English Edition editor Andrew Bulkeley adapted this article on loosening corona restrictions

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