Even without a coronavirus, underground travel is a delicate matter. Batches of bacteria are hiding everywhere, the slippery poles have never been touched, and there is always the same game when getting in and out: Waiting until another person has taken the risk of pressing the blinking, bacteria-strewn door release button.

So how does the Berlin underground clientele behave in the current situation, since Sars-CoV-2 has now also been officially confirmed in Berlin? What is striking is that every cough provides at least a strict look at the person in question. The particularly fearful sit a row further back. People with breathing masks, whom you rarely see, cause real unrest.


In China, entire places are being disinfected to reduce the spread of the virus. What about disinfection at BVG? Ask Petra Nelken, spokeswoman for Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe. The BVG does not want to “provide false security”, she says; such a project would simply be “illusory”. Given the approximately 3 million passengers a day, it is “simply not possible” to disinfect surfaces.

The motto is self-protection

The company has pandemic plans, but so far “nobody has declared the crisis,” said Nelken. A crisis team was convened by Interior Senator Andreas Geisel and Health Senator Dilek Kalayci (both SPD). If Geisel proclaims the emergency, the traffic will be shut down. Until then, every BVG driver can do enough to protect himself, says Nelken.

If you specifically ask at Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn and U-Bahn station what the mood is like on day one of the Coronavirus, you often hear that “there is too much panic”. A 69-year-old from Berlin is amazed that it is only now that it hits Berlin. When asked whether she made hamster purchases herself, there was a decided “Yes, of course!”. She wants to be prepared. She hoped that the government would take action “when the emergency is declared”.

A 30-year-old man with a stroller says he is less afraid of the virus itself than of people’s irrational reactions. As a precaution, he had already deposited water supplies in his basement. An older woman calls in between: “I don’t make me sick! No thanks!”

On the way back to the editorial office there are two young women at the end of the subway car. They spray wildly with disinfectants – they are well armed in the risk area.