Temperatures are rising and Berliners are seeking places to cool off. However, with coronavirus cases on the rise, many fear dangerous overcrowding. Local politicians are looking for solutions.
Berlin's coronavirus cases are on the rise again — with a record 111 cases registered this week.
At the same time, the German capital is seeing the longest heat wave of the year. And judging by the trail of bathers heading to the city's lakes, parks, and pools, it seems the heat bothers Berliners far more than the risk of catching the coronavirus.
"We don't have too many pretty days like these in Berlin, so we have to make good use of them!" says one bather as he approaches the narrow shore of Schlachtensee, in the south-western part of the city. As it is easily accessible by public transportation, it is one of the prime destinations for those looking to cool down and chill out.
However, city authorities are concerned it will soon become a pandemic hotspot. On Twitter this week, Berlin police have been reminding lake-goers to keep a distance and to wear masks — but they can't do much more than plead with the public and hope for voluntary cooperation.
Park inspectors overwhelmed
The park inspectors who are in charge of maintaining peace and order, protecting nature and preventing fires, now find themselves busy with crowd-control. In the afternoons, after working hours, up to ten thousand people flock to Berlin's parks — the number rises to fifty thousand on weekends. The park inspectors struggle to find ways to try to spread out people searching for a tiny piece of land to sit down.
"We are in full capacity and busy to the maximum," says Max Hoppe, the park manager who oversees the inspectors teams. "The coronavirus added a lot to our workload. We can't just stop our fire-prevention efforts, but there's also a lot of aggression between visitors. We have to mediate and also deal with implementing coronavirus rules. So we try to combine everything and we appeal to everyone to exercise self-discipline and behave responsibly."
More flexibility required
One suggested solution to the overcrowding of the regional lakes is to change the quota system in the city's 15 open-air pools. This summer they operate under strict limitations, forcing bathers to register online beforehand, and restricting the number of people in the water. The pool in Pankow district, for example, sells 474 tickets each afternoon — but allows only 170 bathers in the water at the same time. That means ticket-holders are allowed on the pool premises, but end up stuck in long lines when they actually want to get into the water.
Local opposition politician Paul Fresdorf points out that about 10 percent of registered clients do not show up, and calls on the pools to start selling tickets at the entrance.
"There's a heat wave hitting the city — but still the public pools association will not let more people in, despite having the capacity — just because they did not order tickets online," he complains.
Pressure seems to have been working, and five pools have started being more flexible to ensure older clients and people with limited mobility who cannot travel to the lakes have a fair chance to enjoy a casual refreshing dip.
But wherever you want to go for a summer dip in the German capital, you may want to hurry up, as hot summer days in Berlin are usually numbered.