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GA English on Sunday : News in Brief from Bonn and the region

GA English on Sunday : News in Brief from Bonn and the region

REGION Strict visiting regulations in Bonn hospitals, an application to restore the former American Embassy Club in Plittersdorf, Bonn Lord Mayor favours demolition of the city hall and a bike demonstration for children’s cycling - here is our news in brief on Sunday.

Stricter rules for hospital visits during pandemic

BONN. Visiting patients in Bonn hospitals at almost any time of the day and in unlimited numbers is now a thing of the past. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have imposed strict and, in some cases, costly regulations on their visitors.

Most clinics advertise the rules prominently on their websites and at their entrances. Cafeterias, for example, have been shut almost everywhere, or are open to hospital staff only. At the St. Joseph's Hospital in Beuel, a patient may only receive one visitor at a time. The visitor must make an appointment online or by telephone beforehand, where they are asked about possible corona symptoms. Once the appointment has been arranged, the visitor reports at the gate, receives a visitor's pass with a code, is registered and allowed to visit the patient for 50 minutes. The usual hygiene regulations apply inside the hospital. After the visit, the visitor must check out at the gate and leave the hospital. The number of different guests visiting a patient is limited to two per week. This means, for example, that two children could take turns to visit a sick parent for over a week.

There is however a loophole in the protection measures. This can be observed in the areas outside the Bonn hospitals - patients who are able to move around are using the surrounding green spaces or cafés to meet their loved ones away from the strict visiting rules.

Most hospitals usually make exceptions for visiting dying patients. For example, in the Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus Bonn (community hospital) in the Südstadt, the wishes of palliative patients are taken into consideration separately, says spokeswoman Katharina Müller-Stromberg. Here every in-patient is allowed to receive one visitor per day for one hour. "We have introduced additional visitor-guidance services at both centres to help with registration. Visitors have to fill out a form, after which they receive a visitor's card, which they have to hand in at the ward. This gives staff an overview of which patient has been visited," Müller-Stromberg explains. For older patients in particular, the hospital has iPads available, so that they can keep in touch with relatives from their ward. Most patients and their visitors seem to be able to cope with the situation: The measures are annoying, but understandable, can be heard among the people waiting in the foyer of a hospital. "We can also leave something for my husband at reception at any time, and it will be taken to his room. That alone is a help," says Ricarda Lange from Kessenich.

The Bonn University Hospital (UKB) has also come to terms with the situation: "Most visitors adhere to the visiting regulations, so patient visits are still possible under the prescribed hygiene guidelines," says press officer Viola Röser. At the Venusberg, too, only one visitor per patient is allowed per day, and each visitor must register in advance with the ward nursing staff. If the number of COVID-19 infections continues to rise, the visitor regulations may change again. The UKB considers itself well prepared for a further increase in COVID-19 patients. "We have built up a powerful group that can make necessary adjustments very quickly," says Viola Röser with regard to the task force which has been meeting since the beginning of the pandemic and decides which measures need to be taken quickly, based on the current situation.

Röser reports that since the beginning of the pandemic, UKB has increased the number of its intensive care beds to around 130 and can increase its capacity to up to 200 if necessary. "Areas that can accommodate COVID-19 patients have been defined and can be made operational at any time. A very low-threshold screening service has been set up for UKB staff by the company medical service. We have also increased the capacity for examining corona tests. We can currently examine over 1000 tests per day," says the spokeswoman, describing the measures taken. The UKB regularly has more than 120 fully equipped ventilation stations and can expand this high capacity if necessary.

(Original text: Rüdiger Franz)

News plans for former American Embassy Club

PLITTERSDORF. During the time when Bonn was Germany’s capital city, the American Embassy Club was used as a venue for embassy receptions and was a meeting place for US President John F. Kennedy and Federal Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Despite its important place in the city’s history, the building is now in decline, having been empty for years, and nothing is left of its former glory.

Now the FDP (Free Democrat Party) wants to make sure that something is finally done to restore the so-called "Ami-Club". An application has been submitted to the district council in Bad Godesberg. The aim is to "repair and recommission" the building. A simple wish, but one that will not be quick to implement. Detailed discussions need to be held beforehand and, above all, financial backing has to be found.

The foundations for the future of the American Embassy Club should have been laid years ago: At the end of the 1990s, the municipal property company Vebowag took over the property and the associated club. Plans to build flats there failed due to the regulations concerning the protection of historical monuments at that time. Ten years ago, Vebowag handed over the site to Bonn International School (BIS) under a leasehold. Since then, the entire school grounds have been leased for an annual rate of around 500,000 euros - a lot of money for the non-profit parents' association that supports the school. In 2013, the school wanted to renovate the club and convert it into an assembly hall including a cafeteria and kitchen. This project was also hampered by regulations concerning monument, fire and flood protection, explained BIS Director Patricia Baier. The costs would have been far too high overall - money that the school cannot afford.

The FDP would now like to make the club available to the public again and, above all, emphasise its importance in Bonn’s history. One possibility, for example, would be to release the club building from the lease - an idea shared by the BIS and the FDP. “We are open to others using the building,” said Baier. As the building is close to the river Rhine there was the suggestion of a school rowing club, however this did not materialize.

The application states that there should also be access to the building from Martin-Luther-King-Strasse and the property should be renovated "cost-consciously" and returned to operation. In addition, according to the FDP’s plan, the building is to be leased again "to refinance the renovation costs". To achieve all this, the party calls on the Bonn city administration to organise two so-called round tables - at which the basic questions are to be clarified. The first round table should deal with a solution for releasing the club building from the lease agreement with BIS. Representatives of Vebowag as lessor, the BIS, the municipal building management and the real estate office are to be invited to the discussions. A second round table will then deal with finding new users for the building. The Office for Economic Development, the Lower Authority for Monument Preservation and potential new users are to take part in these discussions. According to the FDP, users could include restaurants, the United Nations, the Haus der Geschichte museum, Bonn school and sports clubs or the American-German Business Club.

If necessary, more round tables with further experts will be held. The results of the talks are to be available for discussion in the council bodies before the council’s summer break in 2021. The FDP proposal is to be discussed at the next meeting of the district council on 7 October.

(Original text: Maximilian Mühlens)

Mayor in favour of city hall demolition and new construction

BAD GODESBERG. Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan is pleading for the demolition of the Stadthalle (city hall), which is in danger of collapsing. According to the city administration, examinations of the listed building will take several months. But in an interview with BonnFM university radio in August, Sridharan made his personal position clear, stating “we must examine - because the town hall is a listed building - whether we must or can tear down everything or if we must leave individual parts standing.” He also said, “I tend towards total demolition and new construction, because that is of course the most sensible thing to do from an economic point of view.”

The city hall has been closed since 27 May. Rusty pre-stressed steel in the large hall is endangering the stability of the building, according to two surveyors, who stated in their reports in June that sudden collapse cannot be ruled out. The investigations had shown that during the structural work in the early 1950s, grouting mortar had been inadequately applied and that prestressed steel had been drilled into the building at the end of the 1990s. The defects had remained hidden from the municipal building management in Bonn for decades.

According to the press office, examinations in the summer should determine how the hall could be repaired in its present form "taking into account copyright law and the protection of historical monuments". The examinations will look at which safety measures are required to be able to use other areas of the building, such as the kitchen, the Karajan Hall and the drinking pavilion, until construction can begin. According to an initial assessment, the city stated in June that this could be in 2022. "We will do our utmost to make proposals soon after the summer break on how to proceed with the city hall," said Lord Mayor Sridharan at the time.

But it will take much longer for the issues to be clarified. "Whether a complete demolition is necessary or makes economic sense can only be determined after the completion of the investigations on the current status of the building and initial planning based on this," explains Deputy City Spokesman Marc Hoffmann. A result is expected in the second quarter of 2021. Hoffmann also addresses the aspect of economic efficiency mentioned by Sridharan. Old buildings are protected, for example with regards to fire protection. If they are renovated, the current stricter requirements will apply. Hoffmann: "In the case of an older building such as the Stadthalle, this often results in extensive core refurbishment, which is often more expensive than demolition and new construction.”

For a demolition, the listed building status of the Stadthalle would have to be revoked. This is complicated, however. The LVR office responsible for the preservation of historical monuments in the Rhineland has its eye on the issue. "We are aware of the static problems," says Communications Officer Sabine Cornelius. "We are in constant exchange with the Lower Authority for Monument Preservation of the City of Bonn about the procedure for dealing with these". Revocation of the monument protection is tied to certain prerequisites, explains Cornelius. A poor state of preservation alone is not a reason. "If a monument is demolished, for example because its preservation is demonstrably technically impossible, or is in question because repairing it would be tantamount to building a new one, or because the owner cannot be expected to maintain it financially, it will not be removed from the list of monuments until it has been demolished," explains the spokeswoman. However, according to the LVR office, a municipality such as Bonn "cannot claim economic unreasonableness in principle". It may only invoke other "high-ranking interests of the common good", such as the principle of economical and sound financial management. In the view of the LVR Office, "a municipality can first be expected to bear the burden of maintaining the (relatively few) public monuments". The role model effect of the public authorities for private owners plays an important role in this respect: the municipality "cannot demand from private owners what it is not prepared to do itself".

The city is examining whether a tent or an interim building could be erected and operated on the car park at Rigal'sche Wiese. The aim is to offer the Godesberg clubs a location for their events as quickly as possible, according to vice-spokesperson Hoffmann.

(Original text: Maximilian Mühlens)

Demonstration for young cyclists

BONN. This Sunday afternoon a bicycle demonstration is winding its way through Bonn city centre and Beuel with the slogan "Kidical Mass - children on their bikes". According to police, the organisers are expecting around 300 participants. The cyclists will start at the Hofgarten in Bonn at 2.30pm and then take the following route through the city: Adenauerallee, Berliner Freiheit, Hermannstraße, Friedrich-Breuer-Straße, Rheinaustraße, Kaiser-Konrad-Straße, St. Augustiner Straße, Belderberg, Adenauerallee, Reuterstraße, Kaiserstraße, Am Hofgarten. The demonstration will end at around 5pm. There may be temporary traffic disruption along the route.

In keeping with the German World Children's Day, the nationwide "Kidical Mass" campaign weekend is taking place with the theme “Platz da für die nächste Generation” (Make room for the next generation), according to the organisers. Part of the event is an award ceremony by the Radentscheid association for a creative competition #StraßeKunterBunt. Children were able to design their dream street as part of the campaign.

(Original text: buj)
(Translations: Caroline Kusch)