Local news translated – Dec 22, 2020

Daily Host Nation Update December 22, 2020 

Germany is under strict lockdown restrictions (to include curfews) from now until January 10.
Click here for details on how the ordinance impacts the USAG Stuttgart community.

RKI reports 731 deaths, seven-day incidence continues to rise

The number of deaths and new infections remains at a high level. German health authorities have reported 19,528 new cases and 731 deaths to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within one day, the RKI announced. On Tuesday of the previous week, 14,432 new infections and 500 deaths had been reported – however, data from Saxony was missing at that time and was subsequently reported. The peak value with 33,777 reported infections had occurred on Friday, but this included 3,500 subsequent reports. The previous peak in deaths had been reached last Wednesday with 952. The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reported to the health authorities within seven days (seven-day incidence) was given by the RKI with the new record value of 197.6. This is the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. (Robert Koch Institute, December 22)

Entry ban for people from U.K. and South Africa

The Federal Ministry of Health has imposed a general ban on travelers from
Great Britain, Northern Ireland and South Africa from Tuesday because of the
coronavirus mutation. The legal order is intended to prevent the spread to
continental Europe, the ministry said. Accordingly, from January 1, 2021,
people with residence and right of abode in Germany may be transported after
prior approval by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

According to the Ministry of Health, the transport ban affects passenger
transport by train, bus, ship and flight directly from the countries.
Accordingly, the corresponding regulation is valid until January 6. From
Thursday, travelers from the countries, as well as those who have been there
in the past ten days before entering, must also be tested for coronavirus.
The Ministry stressed that the existing quarantine obligation for entries
from risk areas applies without exception.

“As long as possible, we want to prevent possibly more dangerous virus
variants from spreading to continental Europe,” said Health Minister Jens
Spahn (CDU), explaining the move. He said the ban on travel from Great
Britain, Northern Ireland and South Africa is a precautionary measure “until
we know more about the reported cornavirus mutations in both countries.”

Source: Stuttgarter Zeitung

Vaccine approval in EU “is not the time to declare victory”

Following the approval of the first Corona vaccine in the European Union, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has warned against premature recklessness in the fight against the virus. “This is not the time to declare victory,” Kyriakides said in Brussels. That’s not until the pandemic is defeated, she said. Still, she said, it is an important day for Europeans. Yesterday, the EU Commission granted conditional marketing approval to the Corona vaccine from the Mainz-based company Biontech and its U.S. partner Pfizer. In Germany, vaccination is to begin as early as Sunday. Kyriakides now stressed that approval of a vaccine – no matter how effective – is not a magic bullet. “We need to remain vigilant.” It is crucial to continue to slow the transmission of the coronavirus, she said. In addition, the Cypriot stressed that the vaccine itself does not save lives, but vaccination does. Only if a sufficient number of people get vaccinated can the pandemic be ended, she said. (Ntv, December 22)

Police announce Corona controls during Christmas

Police want to monitor compliance with Corona restrictions on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “We are currently increasing our presence in public spaces,” said the deputy head of the police union (GdP), Jörg Radek, to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung.” However, the police will not “go from house to house without any reason and count how many people are sitting at the table.” Because of the fundamental right to the integrity of the home, this is not even possible. At the same time, Radek appealed to citizens not to be too hasty in calling the police during the holidays. If, for example, neighbors had invited too many people, they should first be asked to abide by the rules. “This pandemic also requires a bit of civil courage from all of us,” the GdP deputy chief emphasized. (Zdf, December 22)

Warning against unregulated rapid tests being sold in stores

The district government of Cologne has warned against two Corona rapid tests that have entered the market illegally throughout Germany. They could have “catastrophic infection consequences” if not used by professionals. According to the authority, such rapid tests have been illegally marketed at gas stations, supermarkets, veterinary practices, breweries and many other places. The district government warned of supposed safety through false negative tests when used improperly by lay people – especially before the upcoming holidays. It also said a risk of injury could not be ruled out. According to the report, the tests were put into circulation by a company from North Rhine-Westphalia. The affected products are “Covid-19 Ag Test” from the manufacturer nal von minden GmbH and “blnk Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) Antigen Rapid Test Cassette (Swab)” from the manufacturer Hangzhou Realy Tech Co. (Ntv, December 22)

Reduction in social contacts still the best defense against contagion

Christian Drosten has reacted with concern to new data on the mutant variant of the coronavirus detected in the UK and other countries. On Twitter, the Berlin virologist shared an evaluation by British authorities on the “B.1.1.7 mutant,” commenting, “Unfortunately, this doesn’t look good.” According to the report, it has been proven that the mutation actually ensures that the pathogen Sars-CoV-2 is even more contagious. Drosten says, however, the reduction in social contacts should help against the spread of the mutated variant the same way that it reduces the spread of the main strain of virus. “This virus is not so new now,” said Drosten. The virus has been present in England since the end of September and was not yet in focus at all in October, he said. “We now know: it’s already in Italy, in Holland, in Belgium, in Denmark – even in Australia. Why shouldn’t it be in Germany?” (Ntv, December 22)

EU Commission speaks out against border closures

Despite the mutation of the coronavirus discovered in England, the EU Commission wants to recommend keeping the borders open in the European Union. Freight traffic should not be restricted, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur learned from EU circles. In passenger traffic, the recommendation remains to avoid travel as much as possible, but without closing borders. The EU Commission intends to officially present the proposals to the EU states this afternoon. They relate to the handling of the new virus variant in the community. Most EU states had already decided on their own authority to restrict travel to and from the UK. France had also closed its border to freight traffic to slow the spread of the mutated virus. The EU Commission’s proposals are not binding on the EU states, as border closures are the responsibility of the respective countries. (Dpa, December 22)

Non-Corona News

Popular gifts this holiday season

“The Corona pandemic has led to people spending significantly more leisure time at home than usual. The withdrawal into one’s own home is now also influencing the choice of gifts,” says GFK expert Petra Süpitz. Smartphones, computers, tablets – these are the gifts high on the wish list of young people. Norbert Herzog, an expert in technical consumer goods at GfK, Germany’s largest market research institute, knows that they are right on trend. “In Corona times, we want everything we need for teleworking,” Herzog says. But consumer electronics are also in high demand for lockdown evenings on the sofa at home, he adds. The product seems to be in the foreground – and not the price. This has been the case in recent years, say consumer experts.

That is apparently also the reason for the boom in kitchen utensils. Experts have calculated an increase rate of 133 percent compared to last year for everything related to food preparation. Even freezers are in greater demand this year by more than 70 percent. Ovens with a steam function are very much in vogue, as are washing machines whose steam kills viruses and bacteria in clothing. Watches and jewelry have been popular gifts for years. “The desire to give pleasure with something valuable is actually timeless,” says Stefan Hertel of the German Trade Association. Especially high-quality real jewelry, silver, gold and platinum are in demand, he said. According to GfK, health, wellness and hygiene products are also on the rise. (Tagesschau, December 22)

A refresher on parking rules

A common question asked by many drivers is whether one can park against the direction of traffic. In principle, parking against the direction of travel (usually the left-hand side of the road) is prohibited. The reason for this is, as always, safety. If you park on the left, you have to concentrate on two lanes at the same time, and this is also intended to prevent dangerous turning maneuvers on the road. In principle, vehicles parked against the direction of travel are not usually towed away, but are usually fined around 15 euros. Towing is only threatened if other road users are also obstructed or access roads are blocked. There are two exceptions when parking on the left-hand side of the road is permitted: 1. on one-way streets; and 2. when there are rails running along the right-hand side of the road. Otherwise, you must park exclusively on the right-hand side, regardless of whether you are in a 30 zone, residential area, or reduced-traffic area. Parking rules are outline in the Road Traffic Regulations (StVO) Chapter 12. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, December 22)

Aldi South recalls moldy figs

The manufacturer Frischebox GmbH in Rheinstetten (Karlsruhe district) is recalling the product “Natur Lieblinge – Getrocknete Feigen, 200 g” (dried figs).  An elevated level of mold Ochratoxin A was detected. The figs are distributed according to the data over Aldi south in the states Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hessen and Rhineland-Palatinate. Specifically, it is about the batches with the number L4302/350058631- 11-580 and the expiration date 20 June 2021. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, December 22)