Frankly ... Berlin
In the tangle of rules to control the pandemic, the culture scene has often been forgotten. Now the rules have been abandoned almost everywhere in Germany – including in Berlin. Our columnist Marie Leão works at the Kant Kino and tells us what this on-off situation was like for her.
It sounded like a joke: 1st April was Freedom Day in Berlin! The number of new coronavirus infections in the city stood at more than 1,100 per 100,000 inhabitants, but hey ho. Over the past few months the Covid rules have been changing more often than the cinema listings. But now everyone’s on their own, and the virus is against us all.
As you know, I work at the Kant Kino – “in my spare time”, as I like to call it. The past two years have been stressful, both because we were afraid of getting infected at work and because of the many discussions we had to have with some of the visitors: either they didn’t want to wear a mask, have their contact details recorded or they objected to having their Covid pass checked.
Facial bikini briefsAfter the first lockdown the Kant Kino reopened in summer 2020. At that point there was no vaccine yet and the famous Covid alert app was still in its infancy. Cinemas collectively prepared themselves for the new situation very carefully. However we were running at a loss: without the Covid subsidies we’d all have gone bankrupt a long time ago. The daily audience numbers had dropped sharply, people were scared. However those that did come were very grateful. Our tips have multiplied since then.
At that point you were still permitted to wear whatever mask you wanted. I remember a man who wore something along the lines of facial bikini briefs. And every day there were always two or three Covid sceptics – with these, we could always be sure they were lying to our faces by showing us a supposed doctor’s letter exempting them from wearing masks for supposed medical reasons. In November 2020 we closed again.
A jungle of rules. Everyone’s losing the plotIn July 2021 we reopened with a new vigour. And before long we were back in Berlin’s jungle of rules with a new set of directives for theatres and cinemas almost every week: masks were still mandatory, but this time they had to be FFP2. Also people had to either show their Covid vaccination pass or an official negative lateral flow test. We even had an official test centre in the foyer! Because the German vaccination cards made of yellow paper were often faked, we had to check the Covid passes in digital format. The problem was that 80 per cent of our audience consisted of women over the age of 70, of whom many had no idea about internet and smartphones and often couldn’t understand why the yellow vaccination cards were no longer accepted. We tried to reassure them by pointing them towards the nearest pharmacy, where the vaccination pass could be digitalised.
The rules were tightened with the Omicron variant. Now only people who had received a booster shot or had recently recovered from Covid were allowed to enter the cinema upon production of their digital vaccination pass and personal ID card. We closed the test centre in the foyer because increasing numbers of Covid-positive people were coming to ask for a PCR test, and none of us wanted to be infected by them. But then the chaos began. For a while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine didn’t count as a double dose. If Covid recovery happened between two jabs, it wasn’t considered a “vaccination”. But if recovery was after the second vaccine dose it was only valid after 28 days but could not be more than three months ago (a regulation very specific to Berlin, because it’s six months in the rest of Germany). In the final weeks of this jungle of rules, two jabs were enough to allow access. Confused yet? You can imagine how many disagreements we had with customers at the cinema door, how much verbal abuse we received that meant we almost had to call the police.
And now it’s all over! Hooray! The Berlin Senate has relaxed the whole thing for theatres and cinemas, and even for clubs. Working to the new rules is interesting – or more accurately to no rules at all. Many people are still wearing masks because we’re politely asking them to do so. But many of the older ladies seem to have simply decided to leave their masks at home – I assume they feel safe because they’ve probably already had their fourth dose? We can be glad that the Omicron variant is much milder in most cases. I doubt that people who haven’t been vaccinated yet are suddenly going
to change their minds now. But the Covid pass is a thing of the past now anyway.
On an alternating basis each week, our “Frankly ...” column series is written by Marie Leão, Susi Bumms, Maximilian Buddenbohm and Sineb el Masrar. In “Frankly ... Berlin”, our columnists throw themselves into the hustle and bustle of the big city on our behalf, reports on life in Berlin and gathers together some everyday observations: on the underground, in the supermarket Frankly … Berlin, in a nightclub.