As one of the last countries in Europe, Germany also eases the lockdown this week. Terraces are open again, but also shops, cinemas, museums and zoos. The regained freedoms are enjoyed exuberantly.
But there is a big difference with the Netherlands: everything can only be done with evidence that you have had corona, a vaccination pass or a negative corontest. There is no criticism of this new ‘test company’.
In one of Berlin‘s best-known Biergarten, the Cafe am Neuen See, they can’t wait. “It‘s like waking up from a hibernation,” says Managing Director Saskia Frank relieved. It’s an hour before opening, the final preparations are made, the staff are happy to see each other again. Although it is a bit getting used to: “I was a little rusty in the beginning”, laughs Frank, “even making small talk almost forgotten.”
But by now they‘re ready. They even opened their own test center. “We don’t want to send anyone away,” says Frank. In recent weeks, they have trained the staff to take the tests and do the administration.
Self-testing is not allowed. At the gate there are staff to check documents. “Yes, you have to do a lot to drink your beer here. But yes, if you look at the German contamination figures, something is going well, so that‘s why I’m fine with it.”
The test centre at Café am Neuen See is one of the hundreds of test centres in the city. Only on the website test-to-go.berlin you can find more than nine hundred where you can get an antigen test for free. In recent weeks, they have popped up everywhere: in vacant clubs, restaurants, bicycle shops, pharmacies: all companies can apply to become a test centre. So there is always a center nearby. The test is not very invasive, because in most cases it is taken in front of the nose.
Where in the Netherlands the resistance to such a ‘test company’ is quite high, most of the Germans go along with it. Research carried out by the University of Erfurt shows that Germans are quite willing to get tested if there is any opposite.
Also at Café am Neuen See you hear little murmor. “You feel a lot safer this way,” says student Kilian Mertens. “And that test is nothing. It‘s like a massage.” The Wieczorek couple is also happy that it has been arranged in this way. “We have already been vaccinated, but I am glad that everyone can enjoy the same freedoms with a test. It’s the least we can do to make everyone feel safe.”
Retailers less enthusiastic
Criticism comes from the corner of the store owners. Because also in shops a negative corontest is mandatory, with the exception of the drugstores and supermarkets. And that turns out to be too high a threshold for a ‘nice day of shopping‘ for many people.
According to a survey by umbrella organization for trade HDE, 70 percent fewer customers are due to the testing obligation. Policymakers hope that this is mainly due to habituation. Manager Frank also has a hopeful message: “If they have already been tested in front of the restaurant or beer garden, they can go shopping immediately afterwards.”