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German politician resigns over face mask scandal
Nikolas Löbel
Nikolas Löbel Credit: Tobias Koch (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

Nikolas Löbel, a lawmaker from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), stepped down on Monday over a government deal to procure face masks.

"In order to avoid further damage to my party, I am resigning my Bundestag mandate with immediate effect," Löbel said.

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German politician got €288,000 commission through his private firm for brokered mask deals with China
German politician got €288,000 commission through his private firm for brokered mask deals with China
Credit: unsplash.com / Markus Winkler

Last year, CDU MP Nikolas Löbel brokered deals with Corona protection masks to German companies and earned more than a quarter of a million euros in commissions, according to information from Business Insider. According to the report, Löbel offered potential customers in Germany "mask deliveries reliably and quickly from China via Bricon Technology GmbH, based in Wurmlingen". Löbel had contact with this member of the People's Chamber after he had written to the Chinese raw materials company Sinopec, which sells Corona protective masks on a large scale all over the world.

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Germany starts testing drive in bid to end lockdown
Germany starts testing drive in bid to end lockdown
Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

The German Federal Government is expected to start paying for rapid tests starting next week, as part of the latest pandemic plan agreed to late Wednesday between Chancellor Angela Merkel and 16 state leaders to moving Germany out of lockdown.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn announced on Twitter the government had secured at least 200 million self-tests and 800 million rapid tests, of which 150 million are already in stock with suppliers.

"Opening schools without rapid tests will drive up the incidence rate," Karl Lauterbach, a Bundestag deputy for the Social Democrats (SPD) and an epidemiologist, wrote on Twitter.

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Germany now recommends AstraZeneca for people over 65
Germany now recommends AstraZeneca for people over 65
Credit: Ashley Winkler for Pendect

The German Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) at the Robert Koch Institute now recommends AstraZeneca's vaccine for people older than 65. The Ministry of Health confirmed the change in a statement. The interval between the two vaccination doses is also to be extended.

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Berlin wants to ban cars with combustion engines from inner-city
Rotes Rathaus, seat of the Berlin Senate
Rotes Rathaus, seat of the Berlin Senate Credit: Olbertz (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

The new Berlin urban development plan - abbreviated StEP MoVe - focuses on the period up to 2030. One of Berlin's transport policy goals is to achieve a combined share of cycling, walking, and public transport of at least 82 per cent by then. At 30 per cent, walking should get the relatively largest share.

Primarily for climate protection and air pollution control, the Senate is aiming for a zero-emission zone "in the medium term". Initially in the city centre, later in the whole of Berlin, no vehicles with combustion engines are to be allowed. Günther had originally fought to achieve these goals by 2030 and 2035, respectively. However, the new urban development plan no longer mentions any dates after the red-red-green coalition had been at loggerheads over this issue.

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Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution now observes AfD nationwide in Germany
BfV premises in Cologne
BfV premises in Cologne Credit: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Public Domain)

According to SPIEGEL, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) has declared the entire AfD a suspected case of right-wing extremism. This means that the agency can also observe the party using intelligence means.

However, in an ongoing legal dispute before the Cologne Administrative Court, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution has committed itself to refrain from intelligence surveillance of members of the federal, state and European parliaments for the time being. The same applies to candidates in the upcoming elections in 2021.

The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) is also currently not allowed to disclose its classification as a "suspected case".

The basis for the observation of the entire AfD is a roughly 1000-page report by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Since the beginning of 2019, the office's lawyers and experts on right-wing extremism have compiled a great deal of evidence of suspected violations of the free democratic order.

According to SPIEGEL information, the report is to provide evidence that the AfD violates the guarantee of human dignity and the principle of democracy in the Basic Law. Several hundred speeches and statements by officials at all party levels are to serve as evidence.

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German government decides on implementation of an official lobby register
German government decides on implementation of an official lobby register
Credit: unsplash.com / Fionn Große

According to information from the ARD capital city studio, the German grand coalition has agreed on the introduction of an official lobby register. According to the report, professional lobbyists must in the future be registered in a database that is to be set up and maintained at the German Bundestag. Violations are to be punished with a fine of up to 50,000 euros.

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Reporters Without Borders files criminal charges against Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Credit: U.S. Secretary of Defense (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced it has filed a criminal complaint with the German Public Prosecutor General of the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, detailing a litany of crimes against humanity committed against journalists in Saudi Arabia.

The complaint targets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and other high-ranking Saudi officials and addresses 35 cases of journalists: slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and 34 journalists who have been jailed in Saudi Arabia, including 33 currently in detention -- among them, blogger Raif Badawi.

"In Saudi Arabia, journalists, who are a civilian population according to international law, are victims of widespread and systematic attacks for political reasons in furtherance of a state policy aimed at punishing or silencing them," an RSF statement said.

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Three unknown perpetrators attack homeless man and burn his tent in Berlin
Three unknown perpetrators attack homeless man and burn his tent in Berlin
Credit: unsplash.com / Mika Baumeister

Three unknown persons allegedly attacked a homeless man in Berlin-Britz and set fire to his belongings. The youths or young men allegedly chased the 59-year-old from his tent in the park on Gutschmidtstraße on Friday evening, according to police on Saturday. Afterward, they allegedly beat and kicked him with sticks. According to the report, he initially fled. When he returned, his tent was on fire. Two hours later, another tent of a homeless man burnt down nearby.

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Deutsche Telekom announces more than 100 billion euros of revenue in 2020
Deutsche Telekom logo
Deutsche Telekom logo Credit: Deutsche Telekom

Germany's Deutsche Telekom posted a record-breaking turnover figure on Friday as its US unit T-Mobile continued to drive growth. In 2020, the telecommunications company earned €101 billion, a 25.4% increase compared with the year before.

CEO Tim Höttges said, "We closed a groundbreaking deal in the United States, improved our market position in Europe and at the same time made an important contribution to managing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic with our stable networks."

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Germany: Man charged with passing Bundestag blueprints to Russia
Germany: Man charged with passing Bundestag blueprints to Russia
Credit: Herman (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

Federal prosecutors have charged a German citizen with passing blueprints and building plans of the Bundestag parliament to a suspected GRU agent in the Russian Embassy.

In a press release, Germany's federal prosecutor's office said the suspect worked for a company hired to check the electrical equipment by the Bundestag. In that role, the German national used his access to collect data and pass it on to "an employee in the Russian Embassy in Berlin, who mainly works for the Russian military secret service GRU," between late July and early September 2017.

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German Police search for Attila Hildmann with arrest warrant over allegations of incitement of popular hatred

The Corona agitator Attila Hildmann has apparently disappeared. The German magazine SPIEGEL stated that they learned from investigators, that they have not known where the conspiracy ideologue is since the beginning of February.

On Friday, the Berlin-Tiergarten district court, therefore, issued a warrant for Hildmann's arrest. The investigators accuse him, among other things, of incitement of popular hatred, insult, threat and public incitement to commit crimes.

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German public prosecutor's office searches Mayor's office in Halle over alleged misappropriation of Covid-19 vaccine
Dr. Bernd Wiegand, Lord Mayor of Halle (Saale)
Dr. Bernd Wiegand, Lord Mayor of Halle (Saale) Credit: Marco Warmuth (Public Domain)

In Halle, offices of the city and Mayor Bernd Wiegand have been searched since Monday morning. According to the public prosecutor's office, this concerns a preliminary investigation against Wiegand because of his premature Covid-19 vaccination.

There is suspicion that the Covid-19 vaccine was embezzled - i.e. intentionally - according to the statement of the public prosecutor's office. The search covered the office of the mayor, rooms of the municipal health department and the vaccination center. The public prosecutor's office pointed out that the search was not tantamount to a preliminary conviction. The presumption of innocence applies.

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48 percent of Covid-19 positive patients in Berlin-Mitte have no antibodies
48 percent of Covid-19 positive patients in Berlin-Mitte have no antibodies
Credit: Ashles Winkler for Pendect

In about half (48 percent) of the adults who said they tested positive for Covid-19 before the start of the study, no so-called neutralizing antibodies were detectable. This is shown by new data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The result once again speaks in favor of vaccination, said RKI President Lothar Wieler. It is generally not atypical for coronaviruses to lose their antibody protection more quickly than other viruses.

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Germany plans free Covid-19 antigen tests for all citizens
Germany plans free Covid-19 antigen tests for all citizens
Credit: unsplash.com / Mika Baumeister

German Health Minister Spahn wants to expand the national testing strategy and massively extend testing.

From 1 March, all citizens will be able to be tested free of charge by trained personnel with rapid antigen tests. They are now sufficiently available on the market, according to Spahn. The municipalities can commission their test centers or pharmacies with such offers.

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Study: Two million people in Germany freeze in their own homes
Study: Two million people in Germany freeze in their own homes
Credit: unsplash.com/Alex Perz

According to the data from the German Federal Statistical Office, there are about two million people in Germany who are unable to heat their flat or house adequately due to financial constraints. This corresponds to 2.5 percent of the population. The data was already collected in 2019.

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Germany to impose travel ban from parts of Czech Republic and Austria
Germany to impose travel ban from parts of Czech Republic and Austria
Credit: JoachimKohler-HB, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 IGO)

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has announced that Germany will impose a travel ban from Austria's province Tyrol and "border regions of the Czech Republic" in an effort to curb the spread of more potent Covid-19 mutations. Tyrol has seen an increase in new infections of the 501.V2 variant that was first detected in South Africa.

“The states of Bavaria and Saxony today asked the government to class Tyrol and the border regions of the Czech Republic as virus mutation areas, and to implement border controls,” so Seehofer. “That has been agreed with the (German) chancellor and the vice-chancellor.”

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Germany extends lockdown measures until March 7th
Germany extends lockdown measures until March 7th
Credit: Bundeskanzlerin (Public Domain)

Germany is extending the Covid-19 lockdown measures until March 7. Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of state governments agreed on the extension on Wednesday after several hours of deliberation. Some measures will be eased earlier, including in-person classes starting February 22 and hair-dresser can reopen under strict hygiene conditions on March 1.

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Study: Anti Covid-19 measures demonstrations in November contributed to the spread of the virus in Germany
Querdenken-Protest Leipzig 07.11.2020
Querdenken-Protest Leipzig 07.11.2020 Credit: Roy Zuo / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

A current study proves that the coronavirus also spread strongly due to the so-called lateral thinking demonstrations in November 2020. 16,000 to 21,000 new infections could have been prevented if the demonstrations had been cancelled, the researchers estimate. The study shows that even a minority that disregards public health measures to protect against infection can pose a threat to public health.

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Germany expels Russian diplomat in tit-for-tat move
Russian Embassy in Berlin
Russian Embassy in Berlin Credit: Fred Romero (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The German government has declared a Russian diplomat "persona non grata" in response to Moscow's expulsion of EU diplomats last week. Poland and Sweden have made similar announcements.

Russia said the expelled diplomats had participated in a demonstration in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, but Germany disputed this.

"The German diplomat was merely carrying out his task of reporting on developments on the spot in a legal fashion," the Federal Foreign Office of Germany wrote on a statement.

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Woman accused of aiding Nazi mass murder

Named in local media as Irmgard F, a 95 year old woman who worked for part of a Nazi concentration camp has been charged with aiding and abetting mass murder in north Germany.

The woman, a former secretary for the SS commandant of Stutthof, lives in a care home in Pinneberg near Hamburg and is charged in relation to "more than 10,000 cases".

Stutthof was a brutal camp which was responsible for approximately 65,000 prisoner deaths during World War Two.

It is yet unclear whether she will face trial, with her role in the murders still being studied.

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Arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch fails in German court against export restrictions
Arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch fails in German court against export restrictions
Credit: Dybdal / Mattes / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Following the decision of the Berlin Administrative Court on exports to South Korea, Singapore and Indonesia, the company did not appeal, said a spokesman for the Swabian arms manufacturer. The deadline for appeals and for going to the Federal Administrative Court recently expired, making the decision from early January legally binding.

In the proceedings, the arms manufacturer had accused the federal government of a so-called "discretionary error of judgment." The company questioned whether the German government actually has the final say on arms exports or whether courts can review export refusals.

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German federal government raises target for herd immunity to 80 percent
German federal government raises target for herd immunity to 80 percent
Credit: unsplash.com / Ricardo Gomez Angel

According to a response from the German Federal Ministry of Health to an information request from FDP member of parliament Wieland Schinnenburg, obtained by Tagesspiegel Background, the government appears to be setting the herd immunity target much higher than before. The German government has so far stated 60 percent, two-thirds of the population, occasionally 60 to 70 percent, but now communicated up to 80 percent.

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Germany set to limit AstraZeneca vaccine to under-65s
AstraZeneca Logo
AstraZeneca Logo Credit: AstraZeneca

Germany's vaccine commission STIKO said on Thursday that AstraZeneca's Covid-19 jab should only be administered to people aged 64 and under due to the lack of data regarding the vaccine's effectiveness for older people.

"There is currently insufficient data to assess the efficacy of the vaccine for persons aged 65 years and older," the scientific committee said in the resolution made available by the German Health Ministry.

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Germany to ban entry for travellers from the UK, Portugal, Brazil and South Africa to curb spread of Covid mutations
Munich International Airport, passport controls, Jan 2017
Munich International Airport, passport controls, Jan 2017 Credit: Vasyatka1, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Germany is set to impose an entry ban for travellers from Portugal, Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom in an effort to curb the spread of more potent Covid-19 variants.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) said before a video meeting with his European counterparts that coordination with the EU had been unsuccessful because some member states remained too lax. "We cannot count on a European solution. That is why we are now preparing this nationally," Seehofer said.

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Germany buys 200,000 doses of Covid-19 antibody drug
Jens Spahn
Jens Spahn Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The German government has purchased a new Covid-19 antibody-based Corona drug. German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) has stated that "Starting next week, the monoclonal antibodies will be used in Germany as the first country in the EU. Initially in university clinics," and added that "The federal government has purchased 200,000 doses for 400 million euros,"

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More than 50,000 Covid-19 deaths in Germany since the start of the pandemic
More than 50,000 Covid-19 deaths in Germany since the start of the pandemic
Credit: Illustration: Pendect, Ashley Winkler. (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

More than 50,000 people in Germany have died in connection with the coronavirus since the pandemic began. The German health authorities reported 859 new deaths within 24 hours to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), bringing the total number of deaths to 50,642.

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German Federal government orders mandatory search for Covid-19 mutations
Jens Spahn
Jens Spahn Credit: Olaf Kosinsky (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 DE)

Until now Covid-19 samples in German laboratories have rarely been tested for possible new virus variants. This is now to change with a search obligation for laboratories.

The German government is obliging laboratories to specifically search for highly contagious mutations of the coronavirus. This is provided for in a regulation on gene sequencing presented by Health Minister Jens Spahn. Accordingly, the goal is to examine at least five percent of positive samples for gene mutations in the future. "We want a better overview of the virus variants circulating in Germany," said the CDU politician.

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German CDU elects Armin Laschet as new chairman
German CDU elects Armin Laschet as new chairman
Credit: Tetzemann / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

North Rhine-Westphalia's Minister President Armin Laschet is to succeed Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer as the new CDU leader. The 59-year-old prevailed in a runoff against former parliamentary group leader Friedrich Merz at the party's digital convention on Saturday.

In a first reaction, Armin Laschet said, "First of all, I thank you for the great trust." He said he was aware of his responsibility. He wants to ensure that the CDU/CSU provides the next chancellor that will succeed Angela Merkel.

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Berlin to implement a 15-kilometre travel restriction for residents
Berlin to implement a 15-kilometre travel restriction for residents
Credit: onnola (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

In a special session on Tuesday, Berlin's government, the state Senate, set to join other parts of the country in implementing a 15-kilometre "Corona-Ring" beyond city limits, with residents restricted to travel within it.

The Senate also decided that the rule would stay in place until the incidence rate keeps below 200 for seven consecutive days.

"The goal of everything we're doing is to reduce travel and contact," Finance Senator Matthias Kollatz told reporters after the session. "The 15-kilometre rule, when the rate hits 200, aims to achieve a further reduction."