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How coronavirus has changed Berlin

Kristie Pladson
April 26, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak has meant big changes in the short term for billions of people around the globe. For Germany's capital, some of the changes could be here to stay.

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin lies empty due to the lockdown
Image: Getty Images/M. Hitij

The coronavirus outbreak has meant changes for cities around the globe, and Berlin is no exception. Here are some of the statistics, reported by the capital's Tagesspiegel newspaper, on how the pandemic is reshaping life in Germany's capital.

Half as much traffic

Automobile traffic in Berlin was down 54% at the height of the coronavirus restrictions, according to anonymized data collected and analyzed by Apple's Maps application. This reduction has resulted in people constructing 15 kilometers (9 miles) of "pop-up bike lanes" using temporary traffic barriers in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg neighborhood. Installing bike lanes has taken years in the past. Passenger volume on public transportation has also gone down 70% in the city.

Boozy Berlin

Wine consumption went up 20% in Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg in March, the month that restriction measures went into effect, according to the German beverage company Getränke Hoffman. Beer and liquor consumption have each also risen 15%. But the capital is behind the national average: People in Germany bought 34% more wine 31% more liquor and 11.5% more beer in March.

Tagesspiegel reported that the increase can be traced to the fact that restaurants and bars, where people normally consume alcoholic beverages, have been closed, resulting in more people buying alcohol for private consumption at home.

Read more: Berlin: 'Cocaine taxis' are a growing problem

Criminals out of work

Berlin police have also noted fewer robberies, break-ins, and crimes related to sex or violence. Overall, crime is down 5.4%, authorities said.

With bars closed and fewer people out, emergency response resources have also had much less work. Domestic violence, however, which often targets women and children, has gone up.

Swapping cash for plastic

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the idea that people in Berlin would one day embrace cashless transactions was almost laughable.

Now, a study from Germany's central bank shows that 25% of Germans are thinking twice about how they pay for goods in stores, with 90% of this group reporting that they are now forgoing cash payments. At the same time, credit card companies are offering attractive deals to encourage shops and consumers to make the switch, including raising the limit for contactless payments from €25 ($27) to €50, facts that are likely to alter the future of Berlin's payment landscape.

Homes for the homeless

In the past, Berlin has struggled to find a solution for its significant homeless population, with many officials saying it was impossible to know how many people needed accommodation, let alone house them. The arrival of the coronavirus in the city provided enough momentum to push toward a partial solution. Now 200 homeless are being housed in a youth hostel in the Tiergarten neighborhood.

Read more: Berlin opens first hostel for the homeless amid coronavirus pandemic

Social workers have also distributed mobile phones so homeless individuals can more easily provide health status updates. While these solutions are only temporary, it has shown the city what is possible.

Delivery services deliver

The city has also become particularly reliant on delivery, with grocery and other delivery services reporting a significant increase in demand, resulting occasionally in delays of one to two weeks. Many restaurants and stores have also started offering their own delivery services. The small delivery service Get Now has seen 330% more clients in Berlin since the beginning of March, compared to a 230% increase nationwide.

Read more: Coronavirus in Germany: Music at a distance brings Berlin street together

Safe sex in times of the coronavirus

The recommendation by German health authorities to keep at least 1.5 meters away from others hasn't been great for Berlin's sex life. But the city is taking the safety measures in stride with the help of coronavirus safety tips from the Deutsche Aidshilfe, an organization that traditionally offers AIDS and drug treatment services.

According to the group, sexting does not pose a health risk "even in times of coronavirus." This could explain why the dating portal Tinder has seen a 20% increase in the use of its messaging services.

The group also says, "The risk of catching coronavirus is at its lowest if you only have sex with yourself."

Berliners seem to be taking the advice to heart: the Berlin sex toy company Amorelie has seen a 50% increase in sales of vibrators that can be controlled remotely via an app since the restriction measures began. Start-up news magazine Gründerszene has also reported a 65% increase in demand for the "14 Days Sex Life Challenge" boxed set, presumably to help couples while away their time in quarantine.

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