The latest corona stats for Berlin (tallied Thursday, 25 February)
New cases in one day: +510 (483 Wednesday)
Total number of corona deaths: 2,805 (+24 over Wednesday)
🟢 R number: 0.81 (0.88 Wednesday)
🔴 New infections per week: 61.6/100,000 inhabitants (60.4 Wednesday)
🟡 Share of Berlin ICUs occupied by Covid-19 patients: 18.4 per cent (19.1 per cent Wednesday)
Source: Berlin's coronavirus status page
The lowdown ...
Merkel and EU discuss vaccine passports
We're old enough to remember reporting how most senior German politicos were against perks for those who've been vaccinated against Covid-19. Yet at their latest video conference, EU leaders discussed the introduction of a bloc-wide vaccine passport that would possibly afford certain benefits for those who have been vaccinated. Chancellor Angela Merkel told colleagues she believed this could be delivered in three months, in time for summer. The passport will not necessarily be required in order to travel. EU members have agreed on mutually recognised proof of vaccination, possibly in the form of a database or individually issued QR codes, but don't agree on what benefits a jab should bring with it - so passport discussions are set to continue.
Most people's FFP2 masks don't fit
Stiftung Warentest, the guys who give product quality ratings to most of what we buy, have turned their attention to FFP2 masks, testing 10 different specimens. Official product specifications for FFP2 masks dictate that the mask mustn't let through more than 8 per cent of particles to 80 per cent of wearers - but only one mask passed this test, produced by the US company 3M. Stiftung Warentest say your mask has to fit snugly to be effective - so if your chosen brand of FFP2 mask doesn't tick that box, you should check out other options. Three of the masks examined were linked to breathing discomfort, earning them a ranking of "ill-suited".
Rapid tests in pharmacies from mid-March
Schnelltests have been talk of the town for weeks - and regulators have now finally approved them for use in Germany. Siemens has confirmed it will deliver tests to "schools, hospitals and other institutions in the state of Berlin" from 1 March, followed by pharmacies from the middle of the month. These tests must each bear a label stating that they can only be distributed by a pharmacist, who will offer correct guidance on how to use the tests. German health minister Jens Spahn (CDU) has spoken of the expanded role he sees Schnelltests playing in the future of the pandemic, giving people more security to go about their lives. It's still unclear whether such tests will be free-of-charge in future and whether they will later be distributed in supermarkets and drug stores.
In case you missed it ....
Are you self-employed or a small business owner? Berlin's got a €150m corona aid cash pot with your name on it - find out more here.
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That's all for now, folks. Stay safe!
The Berliner Zeitung English team