Daily Host Nation Stories for May 11, 2020
Two people seriously injured – dog dies
Two people were injured in a collision on Autobahn 8 near Leonberg (Böblingen district) – one of them critically. A 27-year-old man drove his car into the truck of a 50-year-old man driving towards Karlsruhe on Sunday evening at about 10 pm for reasons as yet unknown, according to police. The collision caused him to be thrown into the middle lane, where he collided with the car of a 51-year-old. The woman was seriously injured, the man critically. A dog in the man’s car died in the accident. The accident created a large debris field on the roadway. The A8 was closed for several hours in the direction of Karlsruhe for the clean-up work. The damage to property is estimated at approximately 13,000 euros. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 11)
Easing of Corona measures
After the discussions between Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Minister Presidents of the 16 federal states on Wednesday, it is clear that the federal government is largely handing over the responsibility for compliance with and possibly also intensification of the anti-corona measures to the states. Although a few general rules such as the obligation to wear a mask and the distance requirement of 1.5 meters still apply, the detailed regulations, for example in the areas of gastronomy, entertainment and education, are the responsibility of the state governors.
General rules- The distance requirement of 1.5 metres still applies throughout Germany. The contact restrictions will be extended until 5 June – but also relaxed somewhat. In future, members of two households will be able to meet each other. There will also continue to be conditions for workplaces. Companies are required to develop hygiene concepts for their employees. In addition, telework should be given wherever this can be implemented. In the retail sector, shops should be allowed to reopen regardless of their size. The limitation of the sales area to 800 square meters will no longer apply; instead, a maximum number of customers per shop area will be defined. Emergency care at daycare centers is to be expanded everywhere from May 11 onwards. Every student and every pre-school child should return to school at least once before the summer holidays. In the nursing homes and hospitals the visiting rules will be made more flexible. In future, every patient or resident should be able to receive visits from at least one specific person again. Training in popular and outdoor recreational sports will again be permitted, but only if certain conditions are met (distance rules, etc). Changing rooms and clubhouses will generally remain closed.
Baden-Wuerttemberg- Starting from May 18, outdoor gastronomy should be available again. Restaurants could reopen their indoor areas from May 25 onwards, hotels and theme parks starting as of May 30. From Monday onwards, “contactless outdoor sports” such as golf, athletics and tennis will be permitted. Some excursion destinations will open on May 11, while amusement parks, hotels and camping sites may reopen on Whitsun holiday. Swimming pools will also open on Whitsun – but only in connection with swimming lessons. At the moment, schools are only open for the students of the final classes, on May 18th the fourth classes will follow, and from June 15th on it will start again for all children. (Stern, May 11)
Merkel criticizes careless behavior of citizens
Chancellor Angela Merkel has again urged caution in dealing with the pandemic, also in view of the demonstrations against conditions in the Corona crisis. She had been told that many people had gone shopping at the weekend without protective masks, Merkel said according to information from the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (German Press Agency) from circles of participants in a video broadcast by the CDU presidium. In part, this behavior was even considered a proof of bravery, the Chancellor criticized. The commandment, however, was still to follow the current rules of distance. Merkel went on to say that only in two to three weeks will it be known how the relaxation of the corona restrictions decided on last week will affect the number of infections. She also announced that she would again comment on the government survey on Wednesday in the Bundestag on the measures relevant to the federal government for classifying the pandemic. (Focus, May 11)
Survey: Numerous industries plan workforce redundancies
The corona crisis is increasingly affecting the work market: According to a survey published by the LFO Institute in Munich, companies in numerous sectors are planning to lay off employees or not extend fixed-term contracts. According to the survey, 58 percent of businesses in the restaurant and catering industry, 50 percent of hotels and 43 percent of travel agencies decided this in April. In the automotive industry, 39 percent of the companies announced this action as well. There are also regional differences: a particularly large number of companies in Baden-Württemberg are cutting jobs, with 22 percent of companies in this sector, according to LFO, and 20 percent of companies in Bavaria. (NTV, May 11)
The infection rate is rising—so what now?
For weeks, a glance at the reproduction rate is reassuring: the number is shrinking. However, for a few days now, the number has been rising again, and now stands at 1.13. What you can tell from the infection rate – as well as other information. The infection rate is one of the most important indicators in the corona pandemic. For the first time in weeks, the reproduction rate R in Germany now exceeds its critical value of 1.0. The figure indicates how many more people an infected person infects on average. According to the Robert Koch Institute, the value was 1.13 on May 10th at 0:00 a.m. The day before it was 1.10. The RKI has repeatedly emphasized that in order for the epidemic to abate, the reproduction number must be below 1.
According to RKI data, the value was between 0.7 and 0.8 for several days at the beginning of May, and on Wednesday the RKI still quoted the value at 0.65 (data status May), since then the index had risen continuously. Reading and interpreting this development, however, is anything but simple. First of all, it is important to know that the statement that one infected person infects an average of 1.10 other people does not reflect the current situation. For methodological reasons, the figure refers to infections that occurred some time ago. Possible effects in the course of infection, which can be attributed to the relaxation of restrictions decided on Wednesday by the federal and state governments, cannot therefore be deduced from it. In addition, the RKI emphasizes in a statement on the increased reproduction rate that the R-value is always subject to a certain degree of uncertainty. Due to the statistical fluctuations, which are intensified by the overall lower figures, it could not yet be assessed whether the trend of new infections, which has been declining over the last few weeks, will continue – or whether the number of cases will increase again.
“The increase in the estimated R-value makes it necessary to monitor the development very closely over the next few days,” writes the RKI. The RKI writes on its website that the reproduction rate alone cannot be used as a “measure of effectiveness/necessity of measures”. The absolute number of new infections per day and the severity of the diseases are also important. The absolute number of new infections must be small enough to allow effective tracking of contact persons and not to overload the capacities of intensive care beds. According to an RKI overview, the number of reported new infections per day has been declining with fluctuations since the beginning of April.
Dirk Brockmann, expert for modelling infectious diseases at the Humboldt University in Berlin, also emphasises that the R-value is only a rough estimate and depends on many factors. Nevertheless, a hypothesis can be derived from the increase from 0.65 to 1.10. Brockmann assumes that this reflects the fact that people have slowly returned to normality even before the easing measures decided on Wednesday. People are meeting up again a little more and are generally more on the move. This would lead to more infections, according to the thesis. In general, the development of the infection must be observed over a longer period of time. On the whole, the R-value still varies around 1, said Brockmann. (Robert Koch Institute, May 11)
Increasing numbers of cyclists in Stuttgart, new daily record on the König-Karls-Brücke
More and more people are riding their bicycles in Stuttgart, among other things the counting column on the König-Karls-Brücke on26. April a daily record was set with more than 7,500 people passing by. The state capital Stuttgart pointed this out on Monday, May 11. In the morning, the State Ministry of Transport had described bicycles as “one of the central elements of mobility of the future” and announced a considerable “expansion of the funding volume”.
Since the beginning of the corona restrictions, the number of cyclists on weekends has practically doubled. Over the Easter holidays, more and more people from Stuttgart have made trips to the nearest surroundings. This was also made possible by an extremely dry and warm April, which set records itself with more than 300 hours of sunshine.
Stuttgart has already initiated a number of measures to facilitate the switch to the bicycle during corona times:
- Sunday closure of Hofener Strasse for motor traffic was brought forward by three weeks;
- Free rental at RegioRad stations was extended to one hour; maps of Stuttgart can be downloaded free of charge with the Bike Citizens App;
- Temporary cycle paths were recently decided for Theodor-Heuß-Strasse and Holzgartenstrasse
Even without corona influences, bicycle traffic in Stuttgart is increasing steadily. This is shown by the figures of the last five years at the permanent counting stations: The average increase per year in Böblinger Strasse is 9.3 percent and in König-Karls-Brücke 6.8 percent. The share of cyclists in the traffic volume in 2017 was 8 percent. In 2013 it was still 5 percent. In 2019, the state capital has set itself the goal of becoming a bicycle city and increasing the proportion of cyclists to 25 percent. To this end, around 20 euros per inhabitant will be invested in the expansion of the cycle paths and parking facilities, and this amount is set to rise to 40 euros per resident.
The city implemented the first projects of the bicycle offensive in 2019. For example, 700 new bike bars were installed, 14 “RegioRad stations” were opened and 15 measures were implemented on the main cycle routes. In total, over 40 projects and individual measures were initiated. In the next few years, around 80 projects and plans are to be added, such as cycle routes, expressways and other collective garages at the main railway station and in residential areas.
In order to make cycling in Stuttgart even more attractive, the state capital is being supported by the state. As a RadKULTUR Kommune, the citizens should become enthusiastic about cycling with a varied programme. The STADTRADELN campaign is also intended to facilitate the changeover to the bicycle and to promote the change in mobility culture in Stuttgart. (City of Stuttgart, May 11)
Hiking in Schönbuch calms the nerves, offers beautiful views
An estimated four million visitors walk, cycle or jog through the Schönbuch every year anyway. This year the number is likely to increase dramatically. “It is really noticeable that there are a lot more people in the forest at the moment,” says Mathias Allgäuer, managing director of the nature park. As a local recreation area in the middle of the Stuttgart, Böblingen and Tübingen conurbations, it serves as a refuge during the corona crisis. This is where the new hiking guide by Schönbuch expert Roland Bengel comes at the right time. A more compact information package will soon be available from the nature park administration when the updated map with all hiking and cycling trails is published.
According to Mathias Allgäuer, the stay in Schönbuch alone is already beneficial. “In the forest you get into a better mood,” he thinks. Scientific studies have shown that trees emit terpenes, and these hormones cause the killer cells in the human blood to increase, which strengthens the immune system. “You feel safe and secure in the forest,” explains the nature park director. The green, the high oxygen content and the birdsong soothe the nerves—a good antidote to the corona pandemic, in which people are often at home and probably stare at their cell phones all day long.
The events of the nature park have been cancelled as everywhere else. Now in spring there would be a lot on offer, “but it’s not possible to lead 20 people through the forest,” explains the managing director. As soon as the situation relaxes, the calendar will be refocused. In addition, the new Schönbuch map will appear in just under three weeks – to match the new visitor guidance system that has been installed in the area since last year. Around 1000 new signs will mark the paths for walkers and cyclists. Its predecessor was the best-selling map of the State Surveying Office, reports Mathias Allgäuer.
The fact that Schönbuch, at 15,000 hectares one of the largest closed forest areas in Baden-Württemberg, is meeting with great interest is also evident on the book market. Last summer, Dieter Buck published his latest work, “Im Naturpark Schönbuch” (In the Schönbuch Nature Park), with 36 routes for the most diverse requirements. “Schönbuch – 101 Highlights” is the title of the book by Roland Bengel, who has already published two photo volumes about the forest. He has categorised his tips – according to history, views, buildings such as castles or huts, trees, water or animals as destinations. “The big visitor magnets such as the Royal Hunting Lodge, the Great Goldersbach Valley or Lake Birch are taken as much into focus as unknown or forgotten places,” he explains his concept. An insider tip for him is the hunter’s trail near Gärtringen-Rohrau or a ride with camels into the forest, which is unfortunately not possible at the moment. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 10)
Outdoor swimming pools still closed, swimmers escape to lakes
The ban on staying in the area has been lifted. Lake Plüderhausen (Rems-Murr district), which was closed for several weeks due to the corona crisis, is now freely accessible again. The lake at the Rems valley is popular with excursionists. The long-distance and cold-water swimmer Bruno Dobelmann from Stuttgart went to his favourite lake on the morning of the reopening day and did a few laps.Blue sky, bright sunshine, Dobelmann had the lake – water temperature a good 16 degrees – almost all to himself at this early hour on a working day. “I have the love of my life back,” Dobelmann explained as he got out of the water after a good hour. And he was so deligted. On Saturday he would come back and then swim a “longer unit”, ten or even 15 kilometers. The water of the lake should have around 20 degrees on Sunday. Andreas Schaffer, Mayor of Plüderhausen, explains that the lake was closed due to the police’s advice, as it was not possible to check that all visitors kept the ordained distances. In the meantime, however, people had become accustomed to the new manners, Schaffer said. Swimmers from all over Stuttgart had repeatedly asked when the lake would be opened again. Schaffer expects the lake water to warm up to about 20 degrees by Sunday. Then many guests should come out to the lake again He is confident that people will stick to the so-called social distancing. They will monitor the lake selectively, but “we will not walk around with a yardstick”.
There are a few lakes nearby, such as the “Aichstrutsee,” idyllically situated on the outskirts of Welzheim, Ebnisee near Kaisersbach is also freely accessible, as well as the recreational area Fornsbacher Waldsee near Murrhardt. However, Bürgerseen in Kircheim remains closed and bathing will remain prohibited until further notice.
All public indoor, outdoor, thermal and fun pools in the country are currently closed. According to the ministry spokesman, a “public pools working group” is working on a concept for a possible opening of the pools during summer. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 11)
Dangerous transportation of viruses: China wants new regulations
China wants to reinforce the regulations for laboratories when handling and transporting viruses. According to a draft of the new rules by the National Health Commission, provincial governments are to prevent the transport of samples of the novel coronavirus without a permit. In addition, the central health authorities are to be informed in detail when such samples are sent from one laboratory to another. (NTV, May 11)