Local news translated – Tuesday, Feb 9, 2021

Germany is currently under strict lockdown restrictions, which include curfews.
Click here for details on how the Baden-Württemberg ordinance impacts the USAG Stuttgart community.

Daily Host Nation Update, Feb 9, 2021

City closes daycare center due to mutation cases
The city of Stuttgart has temporarily closed the daycare center of an independent organization because six mutated Corona infections that have been detected there. Affected are children, parents and one educator. In three cases, infection with a variant of the virus has been detected; in one case, it is the British variant of the virus. In the other two cases, the variant has not yet been identified.

This is the first time the city has completely closed a facility after cases of infection occurred. According to the health department, all children, parents and employees of the facility will now be tested. The daycare center has two groups with a total of 40 places. Infections with the coronavirus have occurred in 30 daycare facilities in Stuttgart.

So far, 22 cases with mutated coronaviruses have been detected in Stuttgart, 16 are of the British variant, four of the South African variant and one of the Danish variant. One mutation could not be assigned. Currently, 596 people in Stuttgart are infected and thus contagious. In the past week, 342 new infections have been reported. This corresponds to a seven-day incidence of 53.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, February 9)

Coronavirus in Baden-Württemberg- for the first time since October – Stuttgart falls below the critical value
The number of new Corona infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a week approaches the important threshold of 50 in Baden-Württemberg. The so-called 7-day incidence was 59.2 statewide, as the Stuttgart Regional Council announced on Monday evening. Compared to the previous day, however, this is only a minus of 1.2.  The goal of the policy is to push the number of new infections statewide to below 50 per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days – only then are the health offices able to track all contacts, they say.

Already, the number of new Corona infections nationwide has been leveling off for nearly five weeks. For comparison: Before Christmas, it was over 200. This Wednesday, the state premiers want to discuss with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) how to continue after the lockdown, which is limited until Sunday. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, February 9)

Biontech vaccine helps against two corona mutants
The Corona vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer is also effective against variants of Sars-CoV-2 that first appeared in the United Kingdom and South Africa, according to a laboratory study. The data from the study was published in the journal Nature Medicine. Both companies drew attention to this. It was shown in the laboratory that the blood of 20 people vaccinated with the vaccine neutralized the key mutations of the coronavirus variants from Great Britain and South Africa, i.e. there were sufficient neutralizing antibodies in the blood.

The data from the study by Pfizer and the University of Texas first became public at the end of January. At that time, Biontech and Pfizer had emphasized that the results did not indicate the need for a new vaccine against the newly emerging variants. In the meantime, external experts have also reviewed the results, leading to the publication in the scientific journal “Nature Medicine”.

Among other things, the paper states that clinical data is now needed to learn even more about the vaccine’s effectiveness against viral variants. The ongoing evolution of Sars-CoV-2 makes continuous monitoring of variations and possible consequences for vaccine effectiveness necessary. (Ntv, February 8)

“Depressive moods” among students
The early opening of schools and daycare centers is urgently needed in the view of Federal Family Minister Franziska Giffey, because the current strain in the lockdown in some families goes in the direction of endangering the welfare of children. “We still have about ten weeks that we have to bridge. There you cannot give the answer: Everything remains closed,” says the Berlin SPD state chairwoman on NDR. The pressure is enormous, she said. “We see losses in education, depressive moods and loneliness, especially in social hot spots. We have to counter this.” (Focus, February 9)

Study: Anti-Corona demonstrations contributed to the spread of the virus
Demonstrations by opponents of anti-pandemic measures contributed to the spread of the virus in November, according to a study by the ZEW economic research institute and the Humboldt University of Berlin. The study is based on infection patterns in counties where bus companies specializing in the rallies had offered rides to the major demonstration sites in Berlin and Leipzig. According to the data, the seven-day incidence increased more in these counties than in counties where the bus companies did not offer trips. (Ntv, Febraury 9)

Before the Corona meeting on Wednesday – Lockdown extension likely
On Wednesday, the federal government and the state’s plan to discuss how to proceed in a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). The lockdown to contain the Corona pandemic has so far been limited until Feb. 14.

Thuringia’s red-red-green state government has already developed a corresponding roadmap for the exit. According to Minister President Bodo Ramelow (Left Party), it will be finally discussed on Tuesday. It will then be presented to the public. The FDP parliamentary group also wants to present a step-by-step plan for the end of the lockdown. However, it’s basically for certain that the lockdown will be extended. In addition to the German government, several heads of state also recently pleaded for this. “At the moment, the numbers for major relaxations are still too high. We urgently need to reduce the number of new infections even further in order to be armed against the dangerous virus mutants. Decision-makers are under pressure Wednesday on how to deal with schools in the future. The closures could have far-reaching negative consequences for many students.  The Federal Student Conference also warned against school lockdowns lasting too long. Sitting alone at home all the time is psychologically grueling”, so Secretary General Dario Schramm “Many urgently want to see others at school again, gladly at a great distance and meticulous hygiene precautions, but in person. School is a place of community, not just learning.” (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, February 9)

Days of Fasching (Carnival) in Baden Wuerttemberg – mostly celebrated online
The Ministry of the Interior in Baden-Württemberg has called for distance and discipline even during the carnival days in the Southwest. “In view of the situation, of course, not a blind eye can be turned during the carnival,” so Interior Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU). He added that the police were monitoring the corona-related restrictions. “There are no special corona rules for the carnival.” He said that while there is great understanding for the fools and jesters, there are no exceptions to contact restrictions. “If we want to celebrate Fasching next year together again without worries, then this year distance and discipline are the order of the day.” Normally, the “Narren” or fools in the southwest start this week their peak phase. As one of the highlights of the Swabian-Alemannic carnival is considered Thursday, the “Schmotzige Dunschtig” (or dirty Thursday), and the following Ash Wednesday is usually the end of the fun. Corona, however, has put a spoke in the jesters’ wheel. Parades and festivities were canceled. Fools’ guilds, on the other hand, celebrate online in many places. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, Feb 9)

Non-Corona News

Mafia-like structures associated with thefts in Stuttgart
The case clearly shows one thing: The bicycle is the new car. Especially in big cities as a means of transportation and sometimes a status symbol, but also among criminals. “We observe that the thefts are organized in gangs. You need structures and distribution channels to make such a wide transport worthwhile,” says Carsten Höfler, head of the Stuttgart police protection directorate. Since the beginning of September, there has been a special investigation group there to uncover the connections and get close to the perpetrators.

“Today, we are often no longer talking about the classic bicycle thief of the past, who steals a bike for his own use or wants to get some money with it,” Höfler knows. The market for expensive e-bikes in particular is growing. “That’s where you get into the organized area: the perpetrators analyze, scout out locations and receive orders,” says the expert. They also no longer stop at garages, basements or homes, if the prey is tempting enough. And that’s what it is more and more often. “Bikes have changed from being purely a piece of sports equipment and a means of transport to a lifestyle product. There is high demand, long delivery times and corresponding covetousness on the market,” says Höfler.

The Baden-Württemberg State Criminal Police Office (LKA) shares this assessment. “The assumption that organized structures are reacting to the currently very high demand for e-bikes and pedelecs and are adapting their targeting accordingly cannot be dismissed,” says a spokesperson. These higher-priced bikes represent a lucrative target for criminals, not least in the current Corona pandemic and due to manufacturers’ long delivery times. And something else speaks for organized crime: “In the case of persons arrested in the act, order lists are found from time to time and investigations into those behind and commissioning the acts are initiated by the police,” says the spokesman. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, February 8)

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