Host Nation Update, December 29
Increase of 26 percent: RKI assigns 13,129 cases to Omicron
The number of confirmed and probable Omicron cases in Germany reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) is again rising significantly. 13,129 cases are now assigned to the variant, 26 percent more than the previous day, according to an RKI overview page. The figure relates to cases in November and December, with most detections coming from last week at 7632 (previous week: 3040). The increase indicates with relative certainty that omicron is playing an increasingly large role in the incidence of infection in Germany, says modeler Dirk Brockmann of Humboldt University in Berlin. In northern German cities such as Hamburg and Bremen, the variant already plays a major role, he said. The data on the incidence of infection, which is currently of only limited significance due to fewer tests and reports, should not be allowed to lull us into a false sense of security, he said, adding that developments in other countries provide impressive evidence of this. “It can suddenly start very quickly and then very strongly.”(Robert Koch Institute, December 29)
WHO still sees “very high” risk from Omicron variant
The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to rate the risk posed by the Omicron variant as “very high.” “The overall risk from the new Omicron variant of concern remains very high,” WHO warns. “Reliable evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a growth advantage over the Delta variant with a doubling rate of two to three days.” A “rapid increase in incidence” has been observed in a number of countries, including the U.S., U.K., France and Italy, the WHO adds. This increase is “likely” due to a combination of declining protection over time through vaccination or recovery, and increased transmissibility of the variant.(Ntv, December 29)
Germany wants to donate 75 million vaccine doses
The new German government wants to donate at least 75 million vaccine doses to poorer countries next year without restricting its own vaccination campaign. SPD Development Minister Svenja Schulze tells Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that the goal of 100 million doses set for 2021 has been reached. “But we must not stop there. For the coming year, we are planning a further donation of at least 75 million doses.” She said she agrees with SPD Health Minister Karl Lauterbach that this will not be at the expense of citizens in Germany who are willing to be vaccinated. “We agree that we will manage both: Providing for our own population and for poorer countries.” (NTV, December 29)
German states run up almost 60 billion in debt so far in pandemic
The 16 German states have accumulated almost 60 billion euros in new debt so far in the Corona crisis. Despite the large sum, this is significantly less than feared in the first phase of the pandemic. The credit authorizations approved by the state parliaments go far beyond this, but have hardly been exhausted by any state government so far. This is the result of a dpa survey of the finance ministries and authorities of the 16 states. At least three states – Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Baden-Württemberg – want to start paying off the debt as early as next year.(Dpa, December 29)
Business owners have existential fears
Stuttgart – The festive mood and hopes of decent business have now been replaced by disappointment: The Christmas financial statement of the retail trade is “catastrophic”. At least the German Retail Association (HDE) uses this choice of words. “For the second time in a row, the Christmas season was a disaster for the retail sector,” explains HDE CEO Stefan Genth after the survey results among 750 retail companies. Many retailers were “disillusioned and afraid of their existence” due to the drop in sales and footfall of around 40 percent each.
He is sure that many colleagues will have to give up in the near future. “We’re not getting any aid either,” he says, “we’re having massive slumps, but not massive enough to get government aid.” Like Riethmüller, Dirk Keuthen, center manager of the Milaneo shopping center, complains about short-term rules that are difficult to understand. For example, he says, it was assumed that customers would necessarily need FFP2 masks before that turned out to be a recommendation. Or the shortening of the period of double vaccination from six to three months: This could not be communicated so quickly, let alone that the customers knew what applied. So it’s no wonder that frequency is down nearly 40 percent compared to 2019, he said. The retailers agree on one thing: “It’s a tough time for us. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, December 29)
At the Stuttgart International Trade Fair Center, vaccinations are again being carried out at a steady pace
From Monday, January 3, to Thursday, January 6, another vaccination campaign will now take place at the Stuttgart Trade Fair Center. After the recommendation of the Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) for booster vaccination after only three months, health authorities expect a high demand. “That’s why we have planned additional vaccination campaigns at short notice,” said Esslingen District Administrator Heinz Eininger. In view of the spreading Omicron variant, one wants to act prudently and with foresight. The vaccination campaign will start at 1 p.m. on Dec. 3, and vaccinations will be held until 11 p.m. on all four days. From Tuesday to Thursday, Exhibition Hall 9 opens its doors ready at 7 am. Interested parties can drive directly to the up to 24 vaccination stations via parking lot P30. Those willing to be vaccinated can remain seated in their vehicles during the entire campaign. However, vaccination is also possible without a vehicle.
The situation is similar when it comes to making appointments: Online appointments can be made at www.landkreis-esslingen.de and at www.malteser-neckar-alb.de/impfen. However, those willing to be vaccinated can also come to the fair without an appointment. For the vaccination, the health insurance card, the identity card and – if available – the vaccination card are required. A booster vaccination is only possible three months after completion of the basic immunization. In addition, proof of vaccinations given must be brought along for second and booster vaccinations. Adolescents can be vaccinated from the age of twelve, but under 16 can only be vaccinated if accompanied by a parent or guardian. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, December 29)
What will change in 2022
- From January 1, rail passengers will no longer be able to buy a ticket from the conductor. Until now, this has still been possible – with a surcharge of 17 euros. The only exceptions will be for the severely disabled. Anyone without a ticket will be considered a fare dodger and will have to pay double the fare, but at least 60 euros. However, customers will still be able to buy a ticket in the DB app or on the rail website up to ten minutes after departure.
- Postage prices rise: Deutsche Post is increasing its postage rates on January 1. The reason is increased wages and costs. Anyone sending a standard letter will have to pay 85 cents – five more than before. A postcard will cost 70 instead of 60 cents. Other types of mail will also be a few cents more expensive.
- More returnable bottles: As of January 1, the mandatory returnable bottle deposit will be extended to all currently non-returnable plastic beverage bottles with a capacity of up to three liters. This affects juices, smoothies and alcoholic mixed drinks. A deposit of 25 cents will be payable on them.
- More minimum wage, higher basic allowance: The new German government plans to raise the minimum wage to twelve euros. However, it is not that far yet. On January 1, the minimum wage will rise by 22 cents to 9.82 euros per hour. In the middle of the year, a further increase of 63 cents to 10.45 euros is planned. There will also be more money for many apprentices. The statutory minimum training allowance for the first year of an apprenticeship will rise by 35 euros to 585 euros.
- Heating will become more expensive: Heating oil and gas have also been subject to national CO2 pricing since the beginning of 2021. At the turn of the year, the carbon dioxide levy will rise once again, which is expected to increase the price of heating oil by almost 1.5 cents per liter and natural gas by 0.1 cents per kilowatt hour. Under current legislation, the additional costs of heating are borne solely by tenants. However, the new coalition government in the federal government has held out the prospect of a change. It wants to examine a division between tenants and landlords that takes into account the energy efficiency of the building. If nothing comes of this, the plan is for tenants and landlords to share the additional costs equally from June. (Canstatter Zeitung, December 29)
Juvenile delinquency in Stuttgart
Stuttgart – Two burglaries in the same jewelry store, as well as a spectacular burglary in a bicycle store – a perpetrator who was just 13 years old at the time of the crime is said to be responsible for these acts in the past few days. He has now turned 14 – and as a special present, the police have temporarily arrested the boy. Extensive investigations had led the officials on to his trace.
Like a pro, the boy is said to have broken into a jewelry store on Charlottenstrasse in the city center first on December 7, then last Wednesday, December 22. In the first case, he smashed a hole in the window in an unknown way to steal jewelry, in the second case he entered the store with an accomplice. During this, a perpetrator with thick eyebrows and a sweater with a maple leaf motif stood out. After this crime at around 2:10 a.m., not even four hours later, the shop window of a bicycle store on Gutenbergstraße in the west of Stuttgart was shattered. They took two electric bicycles of the brand Conway for 6100 euros.
Last Thursday, police arrested the 14-year-old and his accomplice of the same age at Moltkeplatz in Stuttgart West. In the process, some jewelry was also seized. However, the bikes have disappeared. The main offender was handed over to a person in charge at his home. At the time of the crime, he was still under the age of criminal responsibility. At 14, there is no longer any reduction in this regard. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, December 29)