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  • Daily Berlin news update: Friday, July 17


Daily Berlin news update: Friday, July 17

Corona spread in decline, shots fired at Neukölln getaway, freelancer fraud exceeds €1 million, and protestors scrawl on Bismarck statue.

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Spread of Covid-19 in continued decline, police shoot at fleeing Neukölln driver, freelancer fraud tops €1.5 million

Berlin’s Coronavirus R number has remained consistently below 1 in recent days and weeks, indicating the city’s outbreak is continuing to stabilise. For a week now, the average value has remained below the crucial 1 threshold, with figures of 0.65, 0.66 and 0.92 reported in the past three days. The R value measures the average number of people one infected person will infect. If R is above 1, a Corona outbreak will grow exponentially, but if it is below 1, the outbreak will shrink.

There were dramatic scenes near Neukölln’s Hermannstraße yesterday when police had to shoot at a driver trying to flee a traffic inspection. As videos posted to social media show, officers on foot shot at the BMW as the driver attempted to accelerate off, crashing into numerous other cars in the process. Police are seen catching up with the car after it gets blocked by other traffic, but the driver is able to flee the vehicle before they get to him. The background to the chase is unclear, though it is thought the driver had large amounts of cash in his car. The 32-year-old was subsequently arrested.

In Berlin the amount of fraudulently claimed Corona emergency aid has exceeded €1.5 million, according to the latest figures. This comes as the Tiergarten district court takes evidence in the city’s first prosecution against the fraud after a 31-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of wrongly collecting €35,000. An employee of the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB), which paid out the funds, was questioned as a witness today. The IBB’s grant-paying process has come under heavy criticism after it was revealed that money was paid out with few background checks made on recipients. The IBB paid out a total of €2 billion over the course of the crisis, with the vast majority of claims proving legitimate.

Owner-occupation surges, Bismarck statue defaced

It’s long been the case that Berlin’s rental flats are being taken over by owner-occupiers, but now the trend has begun to affect social conservation areas too. According to research by rbb24, owner-occupation is rife even in these Milieuschutzgebiete, which are supposed to maintain the social makeup of areas in the city most threatened by gentrification. In one such area in Lichtenberg, 111 rental apartments have been converted to owner-occupancy so far this year, twice as many as last year. Pankow is also reporting large numbers of applications for conversions – which are almost always approved – with 945 in the first six months of this year, compared to 840 for the whole of last year. The districts of Neukölln and Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg also reported similar developments, confirming suspicions that Berlin’s days as a city of renters are numbered. 

The Bismarck Monument in Tiergarten has been daubed in golden and pink paint in a demonstration against colonialism. Protest group Decolonize Berlin is thought to be behind the Friday attack on the statue, which is located near to the Victory Column. Speaking to the DPA the group described the action as “beautification” and said that more such acts would follow. Otto von Bismarck was Chancellor of the German Reich from 1871 to 1890 and is considered by many as a pioneer of German colonialism.

Ringcenter Galeria Kaufhof saved, doctors embrace online consultations

Department store Galeria Kaufhof in Lichtenberg’s Ringcenter has been saved after the landlord agreed to renegotiate the store’s lease. Parent company Galeria-Karstadt-Kaufhof is closing swathes of branches as it fights to secure the future of its business. Similar agreements with landlords across Germany have meant the number of closures has been reduced from 62 to 50, saving 500 jobs. 

The coronavirus crisis has ushered in a new era of online healthcare in Berlin as doctors embrace video consultations. More than 2300 surgeries with almost 4300 registered doctors and psychotherapists across the city are now equipped for online consultations. Before the crisis there were just seven specialists in four practices offering the service, according to the association of state-funded healthcare providers.