Local news translated, May 6

Local (German) COVID-19 News

Translation courtesy of the USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Team
May 6, 2020 

Daily Host Nation Stories for May 6, 2020

Kekulé labels government schemes as “highly dangerous” 

Virologist Alexander Kekulé warns in a special guest article in “Die Zeit” that the restrictions should be eased periodically and reintroduced if necessary. The concept of Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn is extremely dangerous. Although Kekulé expects the pandemic to decrease – due to the measures introduced and warmer temperatures – the virus will continue to spread to other parts of the world and flare up again in autumn and winter. Until then, according to the virologist, there will be no vaccine and no life-saving therapy, and there will also be no herd immunity. Kekulé warns that the lack of contact restrictions would lead to a renewed increase in the number of infections and deaths, citing the opening of daycare centers and schools as a major risk. The simultaneous nationwide relaxation of the regulations for the restaurant sector is also “an additional risk from an epidemiological point of view.” (NTV, May 6)

Stuttgart removes warning signs on playgrounds

Last Saturday, the cabinet passed the seventh decree of the state government to change the Corona Ordinance – and with it, among other things, the opening of playgrounds, music schools and zoos. “This should bring some relief to families and children”, said Minister President Winfried Kretschmann. The relief will come into effect this Wednesday. The playground at Höhenpark am Killesberg was the first of a total of 603 municipal playgrounds and football pitches as well as five forest playgrounds that the authorities closed down about seven weeks ago. “I am very happy that the children are finally getting more space and are allowed to go to the playgrounds again,” says Maria Haller-Kindler, the city’s children’s commissioner. She will be at the playground in Höhenpark when the first barrier tape is cut at 7.30 a.m. this Wednesday morning. “For younger children, the playground is an important place to get moving,” stresses Maria Haller-Kindler. By the end of the week, all playgrounds should be accessible again. According to Volker Schirner, the head of the garden, cemetery and forestry office, his employees are posting the new rules. Children and parents should keep a minimum distance of 1.50 meters, only enter the site without symptoms and avoid crowded playgrounds. “Parents and supervisors are responsible for observing the rules,” the new signs read. (Stuttgarter Zeitung, May 5)

Authorities will carry out checks

Dorothea Koller, head of the Office of Public Order, emphasises that the rules of the state ordinance continue to apply. “Only two people are allowed to meet in public, who do not live in the same household. Five in private homes.” (Stuttgarter Zeitung, May 5)

Face masks at the zoo

A huge park with 8,500 plant species and a zoo with 11,000 animals without people? Since the middle of March this is the case in Bad Cannstatt. Some monkeys were already bored. Now redemption from boredom is in sight: on Monday, May 11, the gates of the Wilhelma will open again. “For many animals, such as monkeys, cats of prey and sea lions, it will be a welcome change when the park fills with life again,” says director Thomas Kölpin. The health of the visitors, the staff and the animals should be the top priority. According to Kölpin, when visiting Wilhelma, masks are mandatory, just like on the bus, train and when shopping. Several precautions are to be taken to equalize the streams of visitors: all buildings – whether animal houses or greenhouses – as well as the petting zoo and walk-in areas will initially remain closed to the public; guided tours and guided feedings will be cancelled. There won’t be waiting in line at the entrance; the ticket offices will remain closed. From Thursday, Friday at the latest, the Wilhelma is introducing an online ticket, which is valid for one time slot: either in the morning from 8.15 a.m. onwards or at midday and in the afternoon from 12.30 p.m. Each time window is allowed 2,000 visitors. In this way, Kölpin wants to keep the density of visitors “manageable”. Also, owners of season tickets and members of the sponsoring association must obtain an online reservation – free of charge for them – before each visit. The tickets are sold on the Wilhelma’s homepage. Because of the restrictions, only the reduced evening rate is charged. Even those who have a voucher must make a reservation there for a certain time window. (Stuttgarter Zeitung, May 5)

Industrial customer demand drops by almost 16 percent

It is the biggest cutback since the beginning of 1991 when statistics first began to be compiled: Germany’s industry has recorded fewer orders in the corona crisis than it has done in decades. As a result, many are postponing investments. Many companies see their existence threatened by the corona crisis. The situation in the industrial sector is more stable than for service providers or retailers. However, the corona crisis is now also having an impact here. New business has collapsed at an alarming rate due to the pandemic. Manufacturing companies were able to record 15.6 percent fewer orders in March than in the previous month, according to the Federal Ministry of Economics. This is the strongest drop since 1991. Economists had only expected a minus of 10 percent. “In the wake of the global economic shock caused by the corona pandemic and the measures taken to contain it, industrial orders fell drastically in March,” the Ministry announced. “We expect a sharp drop in production to continue after March because of the corona pandemic.” Compared to March 2019, the decline was 16 percent. Fewer orders arrived from abroad as well as from Germany. Domestic orders in March were down 14.8 percent on the previous month. Orders from abroad fell by 16.1 percent; orders from the euro zone fell by 17.9 percent and those from the rest of the world by 15.0 percent. With a minus of 22.6 percent, producers of investment goods were particularly hard hit. Customers who want to buy new machines are now apparently putting such purchases on hold. The spread of the virus and the measures to contain it have recently paralyzed parts of the economy to a large extent, partly because supply chains have been interrupted. A fundamental improvement is not in sight. This is indicated by the current surveys among industrial companies. The business-related climate dropped in April to its lowest level since March 2009 (Spiegel, May 6)

Germany reports more than 7000 Covid-19 fatalities

According to calculations by ntv.de, the number of infections in Germany is rising to a total of 165,312. 26,411 people are currently acutely infected with the coronavirus, which is about 1000 cases less than the day before (27,873). 7027 people have so far lost their lives as a result of illness with Covid-19. This is 83 more than the previous evening. The number of convalescents continues to rise and is currently at 131,874. (NTV, May 6)

Hairdressers, barber shops have been swamped

The need was great among the people in Baden-Wuerttemberg. Even the Prime Minister himself made an appointment with a hairdresser on Monday. For many Stuttgart residents, the most important appointment in the weekly calendar seems to be at the barber shop. They have many limitations: fewer customers in the store, a separate entrance and exit, they have to disinfect everything all the time.  Shops aren’t allowed to occupy every available space in the shop, otherwise they cannot keep the minimum distance. This means they can accept fewer customers. This will be noticeable in sales. Customers also have to get used to the new conditions, many are still irritated: (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 5)

Kretschmann does not yet want to relax contact bans

State Premier Winfried Kretschmann has spoken out against a rapid easing of corona ordinances despite a decrease in the number of infections in the southwest. He’s critical of the advance of some German states. Kretschmann said on Tuesday in Stuttgart before the talks between the State Premiers and Chancellor Angela Merkel about possible easing of the regulations, which are planned for Wednesday. “You can’t discuss properly, if everyone has already decided in advance what they want to do,” he criticized. Kretschmann made it clear that he is against easing the ban on contact for citizens. In Saxony-Anhalt, a new regulation had come into force, with which the state is leading the way nationwide in easing the corona restrictions; from now on there may be five people together instead of one person from their own household. The politician also reacted cautiously to the call by State Tourism Minister Guido Wolf  for a gradual opening of the catering trade by May 31 at the latest. He said that decisions would only be made step by step, starting with the unproblematic areas and not the problematic ones. Earlier, Bavaria had declared that it would gradually reopen the restaurants until the end of May. “If Bavaria makes this possible, we should also do it quickly in Baden-Württemberg,” Wolf demanded. Kretschmann admitted that some progress had already been made in the fight against the virus. The “absolute standard” had been to prevent the health system from being overburdened, and that was achieved. In the southwest, so much capacity has now been built up in the hospitals that there is no longer any reason to fear that patients will not be treated properly in the intensive care units in the event of a new wave of illness. However, the impression should not be given that the coronavirus has been defeated. Kretschmann still doesn’t see that major events will be permitted again in the foreseeable future. He assumes, however, that after the Whitsunday holidays there may be return to schools for all pupils if the rules of distance can be observed. In Kretschmann’s estimation, if the number of people infected with the virus is low, it could also be possible by the summer that measures such as curfews are only implemented at local level, depending on how the situation develops in individual regions. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 5)

 Vienna Airport offers tests for 190 Euro

Travel to Austria and avoid the 14-day corona quarantine? This has been possible at Vienna Airport since Monday, provided you spend 190 euros on a PCR test and can show a negative result afterwards. Vienna International Airport announced passengers can have themselves tested for the virus using a molecular biological Covid-19 test directly upon arrival in the Austrian capital. The result should be available within two to three hours. Passengers departing from Vienna can use this health certificate to prove that they are corona-free when entering another country. For entry into Austria, travelers must normally either present a health certificate with a negative result not older than four days or isolate themselves for two weeks. Acording to the airport, this test offer is available to arriving and departing passengers as well as all other interested parties. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 5)

RKI: 10,000 healthcare workers have been infected so far

More than 10,000 people in Germany who work in the healthcare sector have become infected with the coronavirus. According to the current management report of the Robert Koch Institute, 10,101 employees from hospitals, medical practices and emergency services, among others, have already been infected with the virus. According to the RKI, a total of 16 have died of Covid-19 and 442 had to be treated in hospital. (Robert Koch Institute, May 6)

Contact restrictions will be extended until June 5 with some easing of restrictions

The federal and state governments have extended the corona-related contact restrictions in Germany until the 5th of June. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state premiers also agreed to ease them. According to information from the German Press Agency from circles of participants, members of two households will also be allowed to meet in the future. (NTV, May 6)