GA-English on Sunday News in brief for the weekend

Bonn · Coronavirus incidence rates drop; lifting of restrictions meets with criticism; protests from sport and cultural institutions in Bonn; large-scale rally with music to be broadcast from Berlin today.

GA-English on Sunday: News in brief for the weekend
Foto: Niklas Schröder

RKI: Incidence falls for the first time since the beginning of March

The nationwide seven-day incidence has dropped for the first time after a long period of increase. On Sunday morning the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants and week at 1708.7. For comparison: The day before, the number was 1735.0, a week ago it was 1526.8 (previous month: 1346.3). The health authorities in Germany reported 131,792 new Coronavirus infections to the RKI within one day. This is according to figures on the RKI dashboard at 5:04 this morning. A week ago, there were 146 607 infections.

First nationwide Coronavirus protection orders dropped as of Sunday

Despite many warnings about a continuing rise in the number of infections, the first nationwide Coronavirus protection measures will be lifted today.

The 3G regulation (vaccinated, recently recovered or tested) no longer applies to passengers with Deutsche Bahn. But the mask mandate remains in place on local and long-distance public transport. The federal states (Länder) and municipalities are continuing to criticise the traffic light coalition for in future allowing only significantly fewer comprehensive protection rules in everyday life. In view of the many new infections, the neighbouring country of Austria is reverting to mandatory masks indoors.

 The new regulations pushed through by the traffic light coalition continue to meet with widespread criticism. For pandemic control, this leaves the Länder with few general guidelines on masks and tests in facilities for vulnerable groups such as clinics and nursing homes. For regional "hotspots", however, further restrictions are possible if the state parliament determines a particularly critical Coronavirus situation. All Länder still want to use a transitional period and maintain previous rules until 2 April at the latest.

2500 people protest in Bonn against war in Ukraine

 Many Bonn sports clubs and cultural institutions marched through the city centre on Saturday afternoon. They had been summoned by the City Sports Association and the Sports and Culture Department under the motto "Sport and Culture Against the War in Ukraine.” Police say around 2,500 people took part in the demonstration of solidarity.

It was about "showing solidarity with the people in Ukraine and the refugees who had to leave their country in great hardship," the organisers said. "Our thoughts are also with the athletes who have fled Ukraine. The situation is unbelievable and very sad for all of us. We now hope that there will soon be peace again," said Ute Pilger, chairperson of the Stadtsportbund.  "We are all looking towards Ukraine in bewilderment," said Bernd Seibert, managing director of the City Sports Association and demo co-organiser.

The City Sports Association wants to set up a special page on its website next week that will support refugee work in Bonn’s sports clubs. The platform will provide information about sports courses, events and offers of help.

Lord Mayor Katja Dörner warned the people of Bonn that the war would be tough. "The war has been going on for three weeks now, it is immensely important that we don't let up and continue to express our support." She said that worldwide solidarity was giving a lot of hope to the people in Ukraine.

Among the many blue and yellow posters, a wide variety of sports clubs could be spotted in the crowd. A judo team had come in its white training suits and a rowing team used two paddles for its banner. "We are all in the same boat," was their message. Six members of the RTC Mehlem 1984 e.V. had positioned themselves at the market square with their racing bikes. During the peace march, they will push their bikes through the city centre, said club president Jochen Güttes. "It was important for us as athletes to set an example. When you see the pictures from Ukraine, I am very touched and speechless," said Güttes.

Meanwhile, "Stand with Ukraine - Stop Putin" was on the poster carried by Steffi Draht, who was at the demonstration with her husband. "In view of the terrible images of the war in Ukraine, the German government is still doing too little," she said. "I am gripped by the images and the knowledge of how close it is. I expect more action from politicians now," Draht said. For Claudia Rieger, the images of war are hard to bear. "That's why I'm here today, to express how impossible everything is," she said. Rieger had not needed to use the word “war” for decades, but now it is back in her vocabulary.

Performances at the one-hour rally at the old town hall included from the Young Theatre Bonn, the Russian soprano Yulia Parnes as well as General Music Director Dirk Kaftan and brass players from the Beethoven Orchestra.

The final performance was given by the children’s and youth choir of the Bonn Theater (Kinder- und Jugendchor Theater Bonn) with families from over 20 countries under the direction of Ekaterina Klewitz. A protest march then proceeded along Wenzelsgasse, Friedrichstraße, Kasernenstraße, Vivatsgasse and Münsterplatz, where a peace sculpture made of messages and white balloons was created. The "Wishes for Peace" will be shared as part of the “City Memory” (Stadtgedächtnis) at studio_bnx in Franziskanerstraße 3.

There were also invitations from the Beethovenfeste gGmbH to join in another interactive activity: Using a QR code that could be seen on posters and demo signs, people could send greetings to a Ukrainian youth orchestra. The orchestra was founded in Bonn in 2016. It is planned that with the help of donations it will perform at the opening of the Beethovenfest in September. 

(Original article: Niklas Schröder / Translation: Jean Lennox)

Bad Godesberger organises peace rally in Berlin

This Sunday, Berlin will once again send a signal against the war in Ukraine. The rally is called "Sound of Peace" and some 100,000 people or even more are expected. Many artists including Peter Maffay, Silbermond and Sarah Connor have already said they will be there.  The organisers do not want the ten-hour programme to be understood as a concert. One of them is Gerd F. Schultze from Bad Godesberg, who is pulling the strings in many places on the day.

He emphasises: "It's not intended to be a pure pop event; it's about peace and the rally that goes with it." The artists are committed and want to express themselves politically. Schultze's experience is in demand in Berlin, "because we develop and carry out many large events." His Bad Godesberg company Music-Delight Productions turns 30 this year. He has been in the music business since 1981, all the way back to the WDR Rockpalast.

The idea for a rally enriched with music came from Fritz Krings, managing director of the company Perepherique. But the responsibility lies with Holger Werner of the “Warriors” association. All the threads come together in the Berlin House of Democracy and Human Rights, where numerous peace initiatives from all over Germany sit and work together.

It’s not easy to organise such a large event at the Brandenburg Gate and on the Straße des 17. Juni. The TV has got involved, which means there needs to be a TV production team with broadcasting and satellite trucks, media and artist coordination, the booking department for the performers and people responsible for streaming via Twitch. "That's the only social media channel that can still be received in Russia," says Schultze - important.

Events like this with a political background are close to the Bad Godesberg native's heart. "I don't just see music as entertainment," says Schultze, referring to his involvement with "Arsch huh" (get off your backside), when 100,000 people gathered on Chlodwigplatz in Cologne against racism and neo-Nazis on 9 November 1992. Schultze was also present at "Gewalt Ätzt" (violence is revolting) on 27 March 1993 in Leipzig with many artists such as BAP, Konstantin Wecker and Heinz Rudolf Kunze, and also at "Rock for Bosnia" in Dortmund in 1996.

Hard times in the Second World War

"My family was hit very hard by the Second World War," Schultze recalls. "That's part of my motivation to help." His mother was born in Danzig. Not far from their property, the first shot was fired by the Germans towards Poland, "which triggered the war," says the Godesberg resident. Parts of the film "The Tin Drum" by Volker Schlöndorff were made on the site in 1979. Schultze's mother and siblings fled and had many terrible war experiences along the way. He grew up in the East until he was two years old. In 1957, the family came to a refugee camp in Berlin and finally to Bad Godesberg in 1961.

The man from Bonn is now in Berlin for the preparation of the rally. When he looks out of the window, he sees Checkpoint Charlie, where sightseeing tours cart tourists past every minute. Again and again he looks at the blue and yellow banner that has been hanging on the museum there since 2014 - after the annexation of Crimea. It reads: "By defending the freedom and unity of Ukraine, we defend the freedom and unity of all the countries of Europe. Vladimir Putin: give up your geopolitical ambitions and let all of Ukraine go free." In Schultze's eyes, this quote already said a lot about the Russian leader.

"Here in Berlin, the effects of the war are very noticeable," says the Godesberg resident. Everywhere you go you see women with prams and emergency luggage, looking for their new homes. "Or they are just passing through."

On Sunday, Schultze is responsible for making sure the event runs well and smoothly in all areas. There are many regulations to follow, he says, in the set-up and security. But he sees Sound of Peace as a challenge for a whole team, does not want to single out anyone – including himself. Many people have volunteered their time. Those who have to charge money work at reduced rates or cost price. There is an alliance of the organisers that secures the basic financing of the rally.

Many people are expected to be there, or watch on TV and on the internet, and above all, donate to Ukraine. There are also other aspects that will be presented on Sunday: "We don't want discrimination against the Russian people." And there are also problems with people of colour not being treated the same as whites at the border when they come to the EU. "It's about equality." Schultze also sees the bridge-building to Bonn, recalling, for example, the peace demonstration in the Hofgarten in 1981.

"We stand by Ukraine," says the Bonn resident. "We want to point out that peace in the world is the most important thing." He hopes that many people will be reached on Sunday with the cultural and political message.

(Original article: Richard Bongartz / Translation: Jean Lennox)

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