Eine young woman pulling the collar of her jacket open in front of her face and coughed into it. Together with the two other women in the four-seater, she jokes about what they would do in quarantine. You talk about it as if it were absurd. It is only seven in the morning and the S-Bahn is full. On the other side of the train window, the sun is just pushing through the blanket gray. In the windows of prefabricated buildings, sunlight reflects on the Red City Hall. The coughing woman looks out of the window and yawns in her hand.
An older woman gets on at the next station. When the doors close, she looks uncertainly at the smooth metal bar. She tries to pull her coat sleeve protectively over her hand. It is too short. When the train starts moving, it supports itself with its elbow against the bar. Throughout the compartment, people with arms crossed or hands in pockets practice balancing rather than holding on. Even in Berlin, the city of many parallel everyday occurrences, in which respect is written in small letters and the actions of others in doubt, everyone: m does not matter, something changes.
Six weeks ago, Germany received the first videos from Wuhan. The reactions were manageable as long as you had no Asian features. Then the first infected people came to southern Germany. This message triggered the hamster purchases of pasta, toilet paper, and UHT milk. Disinfectant was quickly sold out and was sometimes stolen from hospitals. The line between comedy and tragedy has run along the human abyss in recent weeks.
The coronavirus has now arrived in Germany.
According to the Robert Koch Institute, the number of cases can double within a week if people oppose the recommendations. But what is the decisive contribution? How does life change in Germany in a week?
Bremen on Tuesday: Everything almost normal
Not at all in Bremen. The district is busy this Tuesday despite the drizzle. Jenny Addens talks to her guests across two tables in one of the cafes at Steintor. You are talking about Corona, currently the greatest common denominator of the topics of conversation. The blonde woman in a bobble hat gets up, adjusts the waiter’s wallet on her belt and goes back to work. Almost nothing has changed so far, she says. The guests continued to come. “There are now instructions on how to behave: wash your hands, sneeze in the crook of your arm. These are things that you do in the restaurant anyway, ”says Addons, letting her gaze wander upwards.
Her vacation is on the verge: next week she wanted to fly “warm” via Dusseldorf. And tattooing, which she also does on the side, has become difficult because disinfectants are in short supply. Sars-CoV-2 does not find it threatening. A friend is a nurse who treated the first corona case in Bremen. And even that remained healthy. “There are only four cases in total or anything,” says Addons, waving off.
The number confirms the Bremen-Mitte clinic. There is a Corona outpatient clinic in which 200 people can be tested daily. According to the clinic, the outpatient clinic is “well utilized, but everything is calm and orderly”. The door remains closed on site. Only the laminated signs and three face masks in the trash can indicate that something is unusual here.
In the city center, people stroll through the shopping street, through passages, over the market. The theater will continue to be used, and today the Turkish festival “Kulturale” starts. As long as “the swarm” does not demand closure, you want to continue as before, says the friendly, cheerful voice from the press office of the theater. But on Wednesday the Bremen Theater announces that all events will be canceled by the end of March.
Corona relaxes the schedule, allows home office, the cancellation of evening plans is increasingly taken over by cultural institutions. It slows down everyday life. However, anyone who is dependent on event fees or the hourly wages in the club cloakroom faces financial difficulties, the extent of which no one can estimate.
Thursday in Wachtersbach: The virus is still coming
Thursday morning in Fulda, two young women board the regional train to Frankfurt am Main. They come from the university where they just submitted their homework. Your everyday life continues as normal, despite the ever-present danger of becoming infected with Sars-CoV-2. “Maybe we see it more relaxed because of our subject,” says one of the two and laughs. You study international health sciences. Student Paula F. says: “I’m not scared myself. I’m fit and maybe I wouldn’t even notice. If I do, I’m worried about the older ones, ”she says, shrugging her left shoulder.
The small town of Wachtersbach is halfway between Fulda and Frankfurt. Despite its old town with half-timbered houses and a recently renovated castle, life takes place in a wholesale market. In the “Hitia”, a canteen behind the checkout area, townspeople and villagers come together for breakfast, goulash or cream cake. Even those who don’t shop meet here – sometimes also for live music and dancing in the afternoon.
Today, only a few of the dark wooden tables are occupied. Joachim and Irmgard Remy are sitting at one, between their empty shopping basket and a flat partition to the next table. “This is the corona protection wall,” says Joachim Remy over the elevation and laughs silently. When he speaks, he holds an electronic language aid on his neck. He was diagnosed with laryngeal cancer last May. Chemotherapy has ended, but now he’s at a new risk: the coronavirus. “We are both rather the calm ones and don’t let us drive us crazy,” he says. Irmgard Remy nods that, even if there is some concern in her eyes. She too has survived cancer. Joachim Remy continues to joke, more cheerful than naive: “I looked at Netto yesterday. There was only toilet paper left
“I think if everyone has done their panic buying, it will be better.” – Even with Corona? – “No. The virus will only really come, ”says Remy. He raises his eyebrows. With all the fun, the Remys are careful not to get too close to other people. At home in Kefenrod, a small community north of Wachtersbach, the Remys have a bottle of disinfectant for the electronic language help. “That’s enough for a year,” says Joachim Remy. The couple finds it ridiculous that some people buy liters of disinfection. “And when the toilet paper is exhausted, the newspapers are stolen from the mailbox again,” laughs the pensioner couple.
Irmgard and Joachim Remy belong to the at-risk group, those for whom a course of Covid-19 disease could be life-threatening. You take responsibility for each other.
The nurse in the nursing home
Magdalena Feher is responsible for sixty people in the risk group. She is the nursing manager of a senior center on the outskirts. A few minutes ago, Feher found out about the first Corona case in Wachtersbach, but she remains calm: “We don’t have to be more afraid than there are anyway.”
A woman comes into the nursing office. She wears a dark blue bandana headscarf around her head and a red T-shirt with the logo of the home wearer. Hulya Kaya has been a caregiver here since 2007. At the word Corona, she knocks twice on the tabletop with her knuckles. So far, everything is unremarkable. “We are not afraid, but we have become more careful,” says Kaya. The nurses no longer shake hands with each other, change their clothes after entering the facility, and wash and disinfect their hands even more than usual, even at home, she says. “This is a protected space here,” she emphasizes again and again as if she wanted to convince herself of it.
But that is also only partially true. “We cannot prescribe anything, we can only advise,” says Feher. She advises relatives of the residents to limit their visits to the bare essentials.
A visit to the press is not necessary, which is why Kaya reports from the residents: “Many are demented. But even the more alert watch TV. A lot is going on about Corona, but they haven’t talked about it yet. They talk more about Greece and Turkey, how people are treated there. ”The bottom line is that the residents are simply more concerned with themselves inside,“ and that is better than fear, ”says Kaya.
A closure does not seem to be foreseeable in the rainbow kindergarten. The cloakroom in the foyer of the daycare center is filled to the brim with colorful jackets, rubber boots, and small backpacks. In the dining room, the frog and tiger groups sit on three tiny tables. They take sausages, bread, and soup. The children between three and six know what Corona is: “It makes people sick!” They shout. And what helps against it? “Stay at home,” says six-year-old Jari. He pulls his chin up, proud of his answer.
Now they are all here and not at home. “We also have no corona,” says Jari freely. He lowers his eyes and begins to ponder. “How can he get in here?” He asks as if Corona were a fabulous character. “Maybe he’s crawling through the door?” Says Juliane, who is sitting next to him. A child from the next table replies: “Then we have to hold them all together!”
The measures of the kindergarten are similarly limited. “Children are children,” says director Bettina Schumann. They are close, and even if they clear their plates independently after eating, discipline is only partially possible. People are now washing their hands more often, with Happy Birthday sung twice. Before the meal, table slogans are chosen that work without holding hands and sick children are more consistently sent home. It is agreed with the city, the health department and the fire department what happens “when it gets closer”. The virus still seems distant.
When the Corvid 19 cases increased in China a few weeks ago, one child said to another, “People are dying.” It was a few days after the storm “Sabine”. “No, it was just a storm. That will pass, ”answered the other child. That’s how Bettina Schumann says as if she wished to be able to think like a child.
The following day, during Friday, nine federal states announce the closure of schools and daycare centers. A school in Wachtersbach also has to close because of a sick child. According to mayor Andreas Weiher (SPD), the kindergartens would be switched to emergency operation. “Closing them completely is not an option,” he says. A lack of childcare would mean more care work for parents, especially mothers, and thus widespread loss of workers – even in professions such as nursing. The Wachtersbach caravan fair planned for the weekend should take place despite the virus. Two to three thousand people are expected, but the fair is finally open-air, says the mayor.
Shortly afterward the caravan fair is canceled for this year. The rainbow daycare center will be closed on Monday.
The course of the week shows that washing hands is not enough. But what then? At the beginning of the week, it is still being discussed whether events with more than 1,000 participants should be canceled nationwide. A little later, Chancellor Angela Merkel recommends limiting social contacts as much as possible. And in Austria, gatherings of more than five people have been prohibited nationwide since Sunday.
The coordinate system of togetherness shifts. What you are allowed to do and what you have to do, what is now dangerous for yourself and whether you pose a danger to others – these are questions that are being renegotiated.
Friday in Dortmund: sadness instead of derby
“Normally it would be jam-packed, jam-packed, jam-packed,” says Aki with a long rolling r. She looks tiredly over her glasses with a yellow ribbon hanging from their temples. Behind her are autograph cards and a mask with Jurgen Klopp’s face attached to the wall. Aki is the landlady in the Lutge-Eck, a fan pub of Borussia Dortmund. The club was to receive Schalke 04 for the Ruhr derby this weekend. At the beginning of the week, it was said that it should be a ghost game. That afternoon the German Football League completely canceled the game. Aki’s storage cellar is full, her pub is empty. There are only four regular guests on the long wooden counter.
Next to two old men, Stefan and Kiki M. sit behind beer tulips. Stefan M. goes to the door to smoke. “Aki is having problems now. That is why we are here today, it is drinking out of solidarity, ”he says, and quickly rubs it off. “Usually everything is full on the street here,” calls Stefan M. and points to the empty pedestrian: inner zone. Three teenagers run along the Bruckstrasse and pour blue drinks. A man shuffles towards M. and asks him for small change. M. gives him a two-coin. “By eleven they have to have twelve euros together,” he says. The emergency accommodation costs money in Dortmund. Homeless people are particularly affected by the pandemic. You cannot retire to an apartment and if there are no people on the streets, begging becomes even more difficult.
Around midnight, Stefan and Kiki M. move on to a club. It is open, but when they enter the room there are only three other guests. “It has nothing to do with Corona. It gets full here, ”says Stefan M. and orders a Fanta grain.
At one o’clock at night, the dance floor and the bar snake melted into an energetic mass. “I’ve got the feeling”, crashes out of the boxes and half the room calls “Wuhu!”. Behind the DJ’s desk, you go to a terrace. Kadir Bağci and his friend sit there to smoke inside. “Corona does not affect here,” says Bağci and shows around himself. The terrace is full of people who stand close together or greet each other with hugs and kisses. They find their behavior irresponsible. “We will overcome it. Germany is well prepared,” says Bağci. He does not want to miss celebrations, nor does school education – after all, that is the most important thing in Germany. And yet both will be restricted nationwide in the coming weeks. This night may be the last one for now
The next morning is spring in Dortmund. The cool air smells of flowers and baked goods, the number of strollers is manageable. In the east of the city, a line of people extends from the bakery onto the sunny sidewalk. Those who arrive at the counter do not buy supplies in large quantities, but rolls for a late breakfast, cakes for a coffee or cake for the birthday child. “Fortunately, nothing has changed here yet,” says one of the baker’s women. Two girls are sitting at a small table, eating rolls and drinking cocoa from drinking packages.
On Sunday morning, a street in Berlin-Kreuzberg lies silent in the sunshine. Only the retracted awnings of the closed shops move in the wind. A few people sit in front of a cafe over coffee and newspaper. The tables are spread out like small islands around the sidewalk. A note hangs at the entrance to the cafe: “Dear guests. Please keep 1.5 m apart and it is best to order to go! ”. The bottom line of the exclamation mark is a heart. The counter in the shop is filled with panini and croissants.
On the light green wall next to it are posters for events that will not take place. Portuguese Fado music is playing quietly in the shop. It is about longing for better times.