What A City-Wide Lockdown Means – Evidence from Germany

by Thomas Klikauer and Nadine Campbell

Train Stop German Parliament: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/bundestag-reichstag-hauptstadt-204771/

Amidst 93,000 daily cases and 80,000 deaths, some cities in India are experiencing a lockdown because of the the Coronavirus pandemic also known as Covid-19. Just a few months ago, Germany’s capital Berlin experienced the very same. If Berlin’s experiences is anything to go by, here is what such a lockdown means for you and your city.

During the partial lockdown in Berlin, Berliners experienced less road traffic. Recent economic , social data and general statistics show how the Coronavirus has changed Berlin for good and for bad. According to the city’s statistic office, ten per cent more people stayed in parks in Berlin from March to mid-April, even though the police and virologists made this very difficult for a while – a small change. Many have the feeling that the city is no longer the same. Overall, the data showed what the Coronavirus crisis did to Berlin:

It was the dream of Germany’s environmental Green Party, inside Berlin’s current Red-Red-Green state government, to open parks and have fewer cars on the road. Berlin is run by the Greens together with the centre-left social-democratic SPD and the semi-socialist progressive Die Line. For a long time, their goal has been more public transport. It only took the nightmare of a deadly pandemic to make it a reality, at least temporarily. According to data from Apple, car traffic in Berlin fell by 54 per cent at the height of the initial restrictions. Apple has analyzed so-called “anonymized” search terms, navigation maps and traffic information.

For this, 15 kilometres of so-called “pop-up cycle paths” have been set up in Berlin’s hip suburb of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg in recent weeks. These cycle pathways are simply separated from the road with temporary construction site bars. Still, the planning and implementation of new cycling infrastructure have taken years. Over recent years, the number of passengers on public transport has decreased by 70 per cent leading to further congestions throughout the city. Worse for public transportation, is the fact that Berlin’s state transport authority BVG “thinned out” – as it calls it – the usual state tram system during the Coronavirus crisis. Berlin’s BVG announced that there is no point in driving hot air back and forth – trams with virtually no passengers on board.

Drinks and Netflix are Up

Meanwhile, Berliners have increasingly reached for the bottle. According to a local bottle shop called “Getränke Hoffmann”, sales of wine in the Berlin and the adjacent state of Brandenburg has increased by 20 per cent in March. And that of spirits and beer by 15 per cent. Even with that, Berlin remains just below Germany’s national average, according to Germany’s Society for Consumer Research. The agency has found that 34 per cent more wine was sold throughout Germany, 31 per cent more spirits – Schnapps – and 11.5 per cent more beer.

Berlin’s bars and restaurants usually source their drinks wholesale. Now that they have all closed, people buy privately and drink at home. Nevertheless, it is reassuring that car traffic has decreased over the same period. People are now using more electricity at home, as the rapid growth of Netflix shows. Netflix alone has reported 15.8 million new customers. Still, the Coronavirus crisis – a crisis that even has impacted the sex industry.

Romance has Changed

Germans have always been a bit worried about sex. Under the heading “Coronavirus Sex”, a German website called “Deutsche Aidshilfe” lists in great detail the dangers of contagion with COVID-19 during sex. The website answers pressing questions such as: Is fellatio dangerous? And cunnilingus? And rimming? Yes, yes and yes! Oh no! Even cuddling and getting undressed with less than 1.5 meters distance stand next to each other is seen as dangerous – hard times in Germany’s Tinder capital Berlin. For this, users seem to have taken the tips of the Deutsche Aidshilfe for safe pandemic sex to heart. Sexting, for example, does not pose any risks even in the age of Coronavirus. In fact, dating portal Tinder has seen a 20 per cent increase in messages sent among users.

The Berlin-based sex toy manufacturer Amorelie.de currently sells about 50 per cent more remote-controlled vibrators, which can be used via an app and can thus be used virtually over all distances. However, the demand for its set boxes, such as the 14 Days Sex Life Challenge, for couples who have to kill time together in isolation, also increased by 65 per cent. A spokeswoman for the online sex shop Orion has a less lusty explanation for the trend. In economically turbulent times, you put aside larger expenses and indulge in smaller luxury or indulgence goods – some buy expensive lipstick, others just a vibrator or lingerie.

Traffic is down

If you seek to have a good time in another way, you can drive around at the Kottbusser Tor, Alexanderplatz or Hermannstraße. In the city, which is otherwise classified by the police as particularly crime-ridden, there are also fewer perpetrators in the absence of victims. Since 1 March, Berlin police have recorded fewer thefts, burglaries in shops, sexual offences and violent acts compared to the same period last year. Berlin’s police say there were 5.4 per cent fewer crimes overall. In particular, the reduction in violence is a huge relief for Berlin’s official agencies which no longer have to worry about pub brawls.

Homelessness Increases

It wasn’t that long ago that the issue of Berlin’s homeless was a big mystery to politics. Berliners still remember that barely a year ago during winter (2018/2019) Berlin’s Senate had no ideas for emergency accommodation at the end of November in sub-zero temperatures. Berlin’s state transport authority, the BVG, even refused to leave tube stations open overnight for safety reasons. In the end, all the city did was provide an emergency toilet at Moritzplatz underground station.

Even before Coronavirus, no one knew how many homeless people there were in the city, let alone where they were. It is impossible to find out and may even be impossible to help Berlin’s homeless. In January, a cumbersome, large-scale census attempted for the first time to use volunteers to record the number of homeless people. People who have always dealt with the concerns of the most vulnerable in society now see the Coronavirus crisis as a great opportunity.

Contact Ban and Video Calls

Despite the ban on personal contact – or perhaps better “because of” – the ban on personal contact, many Berliners became suddenly aware of what their colleagues private living environment looked like. Via video calls, they see ugly curtains, poorly sorted bookshelves and even of the colors of co-workers’ briefs on a clothes rack in the background. The newly established home office, combined with the inevitable video conferencing, provides insight into other people’s privacy that we have never seen before. But the realization that 90 per cent of all business meetings could be done online have been revolutionary.

Network node operator De-Cix reports that the use of video calls has increased by more than 50 per cent since the Coronavirus crisis. It demands a lot of data transfer volume, which is why overall Internet traffic increased by 10 per cent in February. Up to 9.1TB per second were transmitted in Germany alone. Germany’s Federal Statistical Office reports that sales of toilet paper have recently fallen by two-thirds – perhaps an early indication that the Coronavirus crisis is slowly ending in Berlin. Right now, there is no end of the Coronavirus in sight in India but eventually, it will end and, like Germany, India will have changed.

Thomas Klikauer has 550 publications and is the author of Managerialism.

Nadine Campbell is the founder and CEO of Abydos Academy.



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