Germany

Regional News • Europe • Germany
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.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
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.

Transportation • Cars & Automobiles
Tesla pays €100 million deposit to avoid construction stop of Berlin factory
Tesla pays €100 million deposit to avoid construction stop of Berlin factory
Credit: unsplash.com / Priscilla Du Preez

Shortly before the deadline, US electric car manufacturer Tesla has deposited a security deposit required by Brandenburg for the construction of the factory in Grünheide near Berlin. Tesla management late Friday night confirmed the agreement between Tesla Brandenburg and the State Office for the Environment for securing any dismantling obligations, the Environment Ministry announced Saturday.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
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."

Lifestyle • Religion
German Pastor Olaf Latzel sentenced for incitement of the people
German Pastor Olaf Latzel sentenced for incitement of the people
Credit: Courtesy of St. Martini Gemeinde zu Bremen

The Bremen District Court has convicted the Lutheran pastor Olaf Latzel of the regional church St Martini parish in the Hanseatic city, of incitement of the people. The fundamentalist pastor had made homophobic and sexist remarks at a marriage seminar in October 2019, and a recording was posted online in March with his consent on his YouTube channel, which has nearly 25,000 subscribers.

According to the court, the statements are incitement and could emotionally justify violence against homosexuals.

Bernd Kuschnerus, the senior theologian of the Bremen Protestant Church, said he was "deeply saddened that a pastor of our church has been convicted of incitement of the people." The statements on which the verdict was based were unacceptable and damaged the reputation of the church, he said. There had been strong opposition to Latzel from the congregations of the Bremen Protestant Church for years. The church leadership has initiated disciplinary proceedings against the pastor, but these are suspended until a legally binding judgment is reached. Latzel's defense filed an appeal.

Diversity & Inclusion
Largest German dictionary "Online-Duden" introduces female form
Largest German dictionary "Online-Duden" introduces female form
Credit: Screenshot site: www.duden.de

Changes are now being made to the approximately 12,000 personal and occupational terms that the Duden previously listed exclusively in the generic masculine form. Every designation will now also be listed in the female form. Ms. Kunkel-Razum, the head of the online Duden editorial department, says, "When we talk about specific people, the generic masculine is increasingly being questioned." In the meantime, she says, gender-sensitive language is a phenomenon that has taken hold of the broad masses.

Business • Economy
Angela Merkel criticizes Trump's social media ban
Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel Credit: Bundesregierung/Denzel (Public Domain)

German government criticizes the permanent blocking of Trump's social media accounts. Merkel pointed out that freedom of expression as a fundamental right should only be restricted by legislation and not by companies.

In principle, the German government condemns statements inciting hatred and violence and is in favor of regulating social networks.

Transportation • Air Transportation & Traffic, Flying
Germany starts using new government jet Airbus A350-900

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) was allowed to use the Airbus A350-900 for the first time for a trip to Egypt.

The new jet is 67 meters long, can reach speeds of up to 960 kilometers per hour, flies more than 13,000 meters high and can reach any destination worldwide without a stopover.

Being the the first of three new acquisitions, the two other A350-900s are to be delivered for the Bundeswehr's "white fleet" by 2022.

Education • School Education
British and German public television are expanding their programming with school shows
British and German public television are expanding their programming with school shows
Credit: unsplash.com / Sam McGhee

In Germany and the U.K., public TV stations now broadcast educational shows for schoolchildren.

German education channel ARD-alpha, as well as children's channel KiKa and broadcaster BR, are expanding their learning and school shows.

In the UK, too, the public broadcaster BBC will be broadcasting several hours of lessons every day from the start of next week. Starting this Monday, the children's channel CBBC and the BBC Two channel are to focus on content for schoolgirls. The initiative is intended to support both schools and families during the new lockdown.

Climate & Environment
Germany: Hamburg introduces solar obligation for new buildings
Representative image of solar panels
Representative image of solar panels Credit: unsplash.com / MICHAEL WILSON

New electricity from Hamburg's roofs: Hamburg will be the first German state to introduce mandatory photovoltaics from 2023. Starting in two years, corresponding systems must be installed on new buildings or roofs that are being fundamentally renovated. The generated solar power is expected to save over 60,000 tons of CO2 by 2030.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany: Bavaria introduces mandatory FFP2 masks in public transport and supermarkets
FFP2 Mask
FFP2 Mask Credit: Christoph Janke for Pendect (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

In Bavaria, from next Monday onwards, there will be an obligation to wear FFP2 masks in public transport and in retail. This was decided by the cabinet on Tuesday in Munich, as Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) said.

Söder said the "normal community masks" are in the Corona pandemic to protect others. FFP2 masks also protect the wearer himself. The goal, he said, is to improve safety in public transportation and commerce.

"Availability in trade is sufficiently guaranteed, so there is no shortage of FFP2," the prime minister stressed.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
UK Covid-19 variant detected for the first time in Berlin

According to a study by In Berlin, the new variant of the coronavirus from Great Britain has been detected for the first time. This was announced by the Senate Health Administration on Friday. The affected person and other ill contact persons his recovered in the meantime. Possible further contact persons are still being searched for. from German A few days ago, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said that the new virus variant was not very widespread in Germany so far. At least according to current knowledge, it looks like the measures taken have prevented the new form from spreading, Spahn said in Berlin on Wednesday.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
EU Commission orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from BioNtech
EU Commission orders up to 300 million more vaccine doses from BioNtech
Credit: Ashles Winkler for Pendect

The EU Commission has concluded a contract for up to 300 million more doses of the Corona vaccine from the Mainz-based company BioNtech and its US partner Pfizer. 75 million doses of this should be available as early as the second quarter of 2021, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in Brussels on Friday.

Back in November, the EU Commission ordered up to 300 million doses of vaccine from BioNtech/Pfizer for all 27 states - a firm order for 200 million doses and an option for 100 million more, which was recently pulled.

In Germany, BioNtech is currently working on a new production site in Marburg. If this goes into operation in February as planned, the company will be able to massively expand vaccine production.

Law
German employer receives €10,4 million fine for video surveillance of employees

The State Commissioner for Data Protection (LfD) of Lower Saxony Barbara Thiel has imposed a fine of 10.4 million euros on the electronics retailer notebooksbilliger.de (NBB). In addition, the company had cooperated closely with the LfD in the proceedings, which had been ongoing since 2017, "in order to ensure full compliance with the GDPR, also from the point of view of the authority". According to surveys from 2018, the company notebooksbilliger.de from the small town of Sarstedt in Lower Saxony is the online electronics retailer with the highest turnover in Germany, ahead of Mediamarkt.de, Saturn.de or Alternate.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany extends Covid-19 lockdown until January 31
Germany extends Covid-19 lockdown until January 31
Credit: Bundesregierung (Public Domain)

Germany's federal and state governments have agreed to extend the existing Covid-19 measures until January 31. Also, further measures will be taken, in particular, contact restrictions are to be greatly strengthened, and private contacts are to be reduced to one person outside the household.

Additionally, travel without a valid reason will be restricted to no more than 15 kilometres in hotspot-areas and day trips will be prohibited.

Regional News • Europe • European Union
BioNTech founders warn of Covid-19 vaccine supply issues in EU
BioNTech founders warn of Covid-19 vaccine supply issues in EU
Credit: Ashley Winkler for Pendect

BioNTech is working flat out with partner Pfizer to boost production of their Covid-19 vaccine, its founders said, warning there would be gaps in supply until other vaccines were rolled out. The German biotech start-up has led the vaccine race but its shot has been slow to arrive in the EU due to relatively slow approval from the bloc’s health regulator and the small size of the order placed by Brussels.

The delays have caused consternation in Germany, where some regions had to temporarily close vaccination centres days after the launch of an inoculation drive on December 27th.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
Germany reports 56 percent less air traffic due to Covid-19 pandemic
Germany reports 56 percent less air traffic due to Covid-19 pandemic
Credit: unsplash.com / William Hook

There was little activity in the skies over Germany in the Corona year 2020: Up to and including 27 December, the German Air Navigation Services (DFS) monitored just under 1.47 million aircraft movements. This was 56 percent less than the 3.33 million flights recorded in the same period last year.

In the Christmas week, aircraft movements including overflights were only 38.4 per cent of the previous year's figure.

International air traffic had plummeted dramatically in March after more and more countries closed their borders to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The last time controllers recorded fewer commercial and military flights was in 1989, then for West German airspace alone. The previous record year is 2018, with 3.35 million movements.

Regional News • Europe • Germany
German Funke news group hit by large scale cyberattack
German Funke news group hit by large scale cyberattack
Credit: By Wiki05 - Own work / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

One of the biggest media organizations in German-speaking territories has become the victim of a sustained cyberattack over the Christmas holiday, forcing several newspapers to cancel or offer severely curtailed "emergency" editions. The attack, which is still ongoing, began last Tuesday.

Law
Journalist Can Dündar sentenced to 27 years in jail by Turkish court
Journalist Can Dündar  sentenced to 27 years in jail by Turkish court
Credit: Foto: © JCS' (Public Domain)

The journalist Can Dündar, who fled into exile in Germany, has been sentenced to more than 27 years in prison by a Turkish court. The court accused the Turkish newspaper journalist of obtaining state secrets for espionage purposes. It also convicted him of supporting terrorism.

Can Dündar's defenders stated that they think that the verdict against Dündar is political. Germany would therefore be unlikely to extradite the journalist.

Law
German data protectionists warn against surveillance systems
German data protectionists warn against surveillance systems
Credit: unsplash.com / Michał Jakubowski

German privacy advocates warn against the creeping use of surveillance systems to identify people. Not only in retail but also in football stadiums, developers are already experimenting with automatic systems for recognizing the implementation of the mask-wearing requirement and for temperature measurement.

These systems could potentially encourage a faster return to "everyday life", but at the same time, there are doubts about the actual implementation due to the General Data Protection Regulation (DSGVO). The data collected here can fall under the so-called health data, which are subject to special protection. In the case of sensitive data of this kind, the person concerned would also need to have given their explicit consent; implicit consent to purchase the tickets would not be sufficient.