The mayor's plan: Rethinking vaccinations and more working from home

The politician says a different approach to vaccination will soon be needed and wonders about hybrid work schedules.

Michael being very serious ... or just German.
Michael being very serious ... or just German.dpa/Christoph Soeder

Berlin-Mayor Michael Müller (SPD) said the vaccination schedule at some point will have to be reworked to include vaccinating younger people more quickly.

While reading out an official statement on the matter, he said scientists consulted by the city-state's government recommend working to break the chain of infection in particularly mobile populations, i.e. young people.

"We might now have to discuss whether we should next include students or trainees or other younger people in our vaccination strategy and vaccinate them more quickly," he said. "And I know what will happen: there will again be a discussion about privileges and injustices."

Müller said the government first must tackle the shortage of vaccines. It has capacity to vaccinate 20,000 people daily but currently only has enough vaccine for 10,000. In addition to his role as the city's mayor, he also chairs the committee of the heads of Germany's 16 states.

No closures, for now

"We have to see how, until we get more capacity, we use these vaccines more flexibly," he said.

The mayor also appears ready to go against federal guidelines that call for closing retail and schools when the 7-day incidence rate remains over 100 for three days, instead relying on increased testing and vaccinations as well as the partial lockdown to get the pandemic under control. The Senat, as Berlin's government is known, will discuss further measures Saturday after Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday reversed her plans for an Easter lockdown.

"We need to further expand the testing opportunities and will continue to expand them," he said. The city already has 130 sites offering free testing but expects even more, possibly in connection with shopping, as well as broader availabilty of self-tests so that people can repeatedly get tested.

He's also considering making working from home obligatory: "Chains of infection arise in places where people think they are safe: In the private realm and at the workplace. (...) And this carelessness leads to dramatically increasing numbers. And that's why we need to intervene."

The mayor want to require employers to offer testing for their employees, expressing dismay that while school pupils are being required to attend hybrid classes - half at home and half in school - employees aren't being divided into shifts. 

"Testing capacity is crucial because the tests can quickly detect positive cases and break chains of infection," he said.

Andrew Bulkeley adapted this article from the original German.

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