Berlin - As of Sunday, Berliners are required to wear a high-filtering medical mask on public transport and in shops. But this universal rule puts a double burden on people affected by poverty.

Prices for FFP2 masks have skyrocketed - it is not uncommon for them to cost as much as €5 to €6 each, and what's more, they can only be worn for eight hours. That means if a person needs to wear a mask five days a week, that could cost them up to €120 a month. For low-income earners, that's a huge sum, and the standard rate of Hartz IV welfare payments only provides €17 a month for personal care products.

It's also important to remember that people with low-income are particularly dependent on public transport to get to work, because working from home is rarely possible in the low-wage sector. That means the people who could face the most difficulty getting medical masks are the ones who will need them the most.

3.5 million free masks for Berliners in need

To address this problem, the social affairs department sent mask supplies to all 12 district authorities in the city on Monday. In the coming days, five masks are to be distributed per person to those with low income in a "first distribution campaign", department spokesman Stefan Strauß says.

The government has not yet decided whether more masks will be distributed. The office for refugee affairs has also received a share of the total of 3.5 million surgical masks from the health department's stock, as has the Berliner Kältehilfe programme supporting the city's homeless population.

The coordination of distributing the masks to those in need is to be handled by the district offices themselves, and there is significant variation between the districts in terms of who is entitled to the free masks. In Neukölln, for example, 300,000 masks will be distributed in the coming days at four locations and at weekly markets to people who can present a Berlinpass, indicating reliance on social support. In Mitte, 330,000 masks will be issued to people with a Berlinpass or a benefits certificate (Leistungsbescheid).

The Köpenick district office will distribute 240,000 masks with the support of the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund aid agency on Tuesday between 11am and 6pm in front of the district Rathaus. According to local authorities, Hartz IV recipients and people receiving housing assistance, child supplement (Kinderzuschlag), Bafög or  social integration assistance for disabled people will be the first entitled to receive five masks.

Calls for income support crisis subsidy

According to Strauß, the social affairs department has written to the districts encouraging them to take an "accommodating and unbureaucratic approach" to distributing the masks. He added that the districts should "act at their own discretion," and entitled persons will not be required to collect their mask allocation in person. This means physically impaired people can send friends and relatives to collect their masks, presenting documents to "credibly prove low income".

Any unbureaucratic and fast help for people with and without low income is meaningful, Frank Steger of the protestant unployment centre says. But he criticised the decision to manage mask distribution on a district level.

"Ultimately, this is an emergency measure, and the districts must act like the fire department," he said.

Whether, when and where those affected receive their masks will therefore be left down to the capacities of the responsible district office, and thus to the chance of a person's place of residence. "We need a general solution for this," says Steger.

The federal government is reportedly already considering boosting basic social support (Hartz IV) by €100 per month. 

An alliance of associations supports the idea and wants the payment to be increased by even more to €600 from €446 currently. They also want an additional €100 monthly bonus to be paid during the crisis because only those with sufficient funds can adhere to the various Covid-19 related regulations. 


I'm eligible - how do I get my masks?

Requirements to receive five masks differ between each of the 12 districts, as do procedures for actually receiving them. The below information is correct as of Monday, 25 January. You can find more information for your local district by finding their website here, or by calling the citizens' hotline (Bürgertelefon) on 030-115. 

Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf

  • When? From Tuesday, 26 January, 9am-3pm
  • Where? Rathaus Charlottenburg, Otto-Suhr-Allee 102; service building (Dienstgebäude) lobby, Hohenzollerndamm 174

Mitte

  • When? Tuesday to Friday, 8am-2pm
  • Where? Rathaus Mitte, Karl-Marx Allee 31; Rathaus Tiergarten, Mathilde-Jacob-Platz 1; Rathaus Wedding, Müllerstraße 146; Bürgeramt, Osloer Straße 36

Neukölln

  • When? Tuesday to Friday, 11am-4pm
  • Where? Rathaus, Karl-Marx-Straße 83; service building (Dienstgebäude), Blaschkoallee 32; Gemeinschaftshaus Gropiusstadt cultural centre, Bat-Yam Platz 1; Seniorenfreizeitstätte Rudow, Alt-Rudow 60

Pankow

  • When? Tuesday and Thursday 10am-6pm, Wednesday 8am-2pm, Friday 8am-1pm
  • Where? Rathaus Pankow, Breite Straße 24a-26; Rathaus Weißensee, Berliner Allee 252-260; Rathaus Prenzlauer Berg, Fröbelstraße 17; Bürgerhaus Karow/Buch, Franz-Schmidt-Straße 8-10

Tempelhof-Schöneberg

  • When? From Tuesday, 26 January, 9am-3pm
  • Where? Rathaus Schöneberg, John-F.-Kennedy-Platz; Rathaus Tempelhof, Tempelhofer Damm 165

Treptow-Köpenick

  • When? Tuesday, 26 January, 11am-6pm
  • Where? In front of the Rathaus, Alt-Köpenick 21
  • From Wednesday 27 January distribution will be extended to 17 Kiezclub community centres and other locations in the district

Reinickendorf

  • When? From Monday, 25 January, 9am-4pm
  • Where? Main entrance, Rathaus Reinickendorf, Eichborndamm 215

Spandau

  • When? Wednesday 27-Friday 29 January, 9am-2pm
  • Where? Sozialamt Spandau, Galenstraße 14; Seniorenklub Lindenufer, Mauerstraße 10a; Seniorenklub Südpark, Weverstraße 38; Seniorenklub Hakenfelde, Helen-Keller-Weg 10; Seniorentreff Haselhorster Damm 9

Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

  • STZ Friedrichshain, Pauline-Staegemann-Straße 6; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, 11am-1pm
  • Selbsthilfe-Treffpunkt, Boxhagener Straße 89; Wednesday, 3pm-6pm, Friday, 10am-1pm
  • AWO Kiezcafe, Petersburger Straße 92; Monday-Friday, 11am-4pm
  • Nachbarschaftshaus Urbanstraße e. V., Urbanstraße 21; Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
  • MGH Gneisenaustraße, Gneisenaustraße 12; Monday-Friday, 12pm-5pm
  • MGH Wassertor; Wassertorstraße 48; Monday-Friday, 1pm-4pm
  • Kotti e.V., Dresdner Straße 12; Monday-Thursday, 10am-4.30pm, Friday, 10am-1pm
  • AWO Begegnungszentrum, Adalbertstraße 23a; Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm
  • Kreuzberger Stadtteilzentrum, Lausitzer Straße 8; Monday and Wednesday to Friday, 12pm-4pm
  • Inti Haus, Friedrichstraße 1; Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm
  • RuDi Kultur- und Nachbarschaftszentrum, Modersohnstraße 55; Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm
  • KPE - Kontaktstelle PflegeEngagement, Gryphiusstraße 16; Tuesday, 11am-2pm
  • Familienzentrum Menschenskinder, Fürstenwalder Straße 25/30; Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm
  • Nachbarschaftstreff der Volkssolidarität - WIR IM KIEZ, Koppenstraße 61; Monday and Thursday, 1pm-3pm, Wednesday, 9am-11am

Lichtenberg

  • ikarus Stadtteilzentrum, Wandlitzer Straße 13; Tuesday-Thursday, 9am-2pm
  • Stadtteilkoordination, Sewanstraße 178; Monday-Friday, 11am-4pm
  • LIBEZEM, Rhinstraße 9; Monday-Thursday, 10am-6pm, Friday, 10am-3pm
  • Margaretentreff, Zachertstraße 52; Monday and Tuesday, 10am-4pm, Thursday, 10am-3pm
  • Kiezspinne, Schulze-Boysen-Straße 38, Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 2pm-8pm
  • STZ Lichtenberg Nord, Fanningerstraße 33; Tuesday, 4pm-6pm, Thursday 11am-1pm
  • Kieztreff Undine, Hagenstraße 57; Monday-Friday 10am-12pm, Wednesday and Thursday, 3pm-5pm
  • Stadtteilkoordination Fennpfuhl, Paul-Junius-Straße 64a; Monday 9am-1pm, Wednesday 10am-2pm, Friday 10am-2pm
  • Kieztreff Lebensnetz, Anna-Ebermann-Straße 26; Tuesday 10am-3pm, Wednesday 12pm-5pm
  • Nachbarschaftstreff, Seefelderstraße 50; Wednesday 10am-4pm
  • Inklusiver Bürgertreff, Schöneicher Straße 10a; Tuesday and Wednesday, 12pm-4pm
  • "Der Gute Pol", Küstriner Straße 39; Tuesday and Wednesday 10am-6pm
  • Nachbarschaftshaus im Ostseeviertel, Ribnitzer Straße 1b; Monday-Wednesday and Friday, 10am-3pm, Thursday 1pm-5pm
  • Naturhof Malchow, Dorfstraße 35, Wednesday-Sunday 10am-5pm

Marzahn-Hellersdorf

  • Stadtteilzentrum Rosenbecker Straße 25/27 and Stadtteilzentrum Kieztreff, Ahrensfelder Chaussee 148; from Tuesday, 10am, then Monday-Friday, 10am-4pm
  • Nachbarinnentreff „Louise“, Ahrensfelder Chaussee 140 A, Monday-Friday, 9am-1pm
  • STZ Mosaik Marzahn, from Tuesday, 8am-6pm
  • Mehrgenerationenhaus Buntes Haus, Hellersdorfer Promenade 14; from Tuesday, 9am-2pm
  • Anna Landsberger, Internationales Jugendzentrum, Prötzeler Ring 13; from Tuesday, 10am-4pm
  • Stadtteilzentrum Biesdorf, Alt-Biesdorf 15; from Tuesday until 5 February (provisonal), Monday-Friday 10am-3pm
  • Bürgerhaus Südspitze, Marchwitzastraße 24-26, from Wednesday until 5 February (provisonal), Monday-Friday, 9am-2pm
  • Stadtteilzentrum Kaulsdorf, from Tuesday, 10am
  • Stadtteilzentrum Hellersdorf Ost, from Tuesday
  • SOS Familienzentrum Hellersdorf SOS-Kinderdorf e.V., Stadtteilbüro Alte Hellersdorfer Straße 77, from Tuesday
  • Stadtteilzentrum KOMPASS - Haus im Stadtteil, c/o Klub 74 Nachbarschaftszentrum Hellersdorf e. V. Kummerower Ring, from Tuesday 26
  • Nachbarschaftstreff MAXIE TREFF, Maxie-Wander-Straße 56/58, from Tuesday, 10am
  • DRK „MuRInka“, DRK-Begegnungszentrum Marzahn-Süd, Murtzaner Ring 15, 
  • Spielplatzinitiative Marzahn e.V., HAUS AKARI Ahrensfelder Chaussee Marzahn Nord-West, from Tuesday afternoon
  • Volkssolidarität Stadtteilzentrum Marzahn Mitte, Marzahner Promenade, from Tuesday, 10am
  • AWO, Stadtteilzentrum Mahlsdorf Süd, Hultschiner Damm 98, from Tuesday 10am
  • AWO Stadtteiltreff Hellersdorf Nord, Kastanienallee 53, 12627 Berlin
  • Tafel Marzahn, Schwarzburger Straße 8
  • Tafel Hellersdorf, Adorfer Straße 6