Weston’s twin town in Germany, like many European towns and cities, has unfortunately not been spared by cases of Covid-19. At the time of writing this article, there have been 323 infected persons in the whole district of Hildesheim and tragically, 3 persons have died.
The State of Lower Saxony, that governs Hildesheim, has now implemented some relaxation due to the decline in the number of cases. Previously, from mid-March to the end of April, schools, all restaurants and shops were closed except for basic supplies, pharmacies, ATMs and grocery stores. Many restaurants have switched to takeaway delivery services. Residents were only allowed to meet one other person, not part of the same own household; with a 1.5m distance to be kept as well as rulings advising local police to break up illegal gatherings.
These pictures show the normally very busy market place during the lockdown and how the market now appears on a market day. Many people are now wearing face masks.
Since 27th April, the graduating students for this academic year are being taught in schools, albeit taught from a distance, wearing face masks and with half the usual class size. Other year group classes are following this schedule, bit by bit. Retail businesses occupying less than 800m2 have reopened, however the wearing of face masks is now mandatory in all shops and on public transport.
Situation in the Town Hall
Many employees work from home and are only in the town hall once or twice a week. Some colleagues were requested to remain working in the town hall because it was not possible for everybody to work from home. The town hall is limited by having only one central entrance, where people assemble for the information desk. The other building entrances are closed. Of course, the town hall could still be contacted continuously by phone, mail, fax or e-mail. In March the Town Council decided to delegate legislative powers to the Management Committee. The Management Committee, made up of ten members and five other individuals, that meet in the large meeting room, in accordance with the rules of social distancing. Individual decisions were also made online by means of a circulation procedure. Most of the committees have recently been cancelled, the next Town Council meeting is scheduled for 25th May. The parties agreed that only a quorum had to be established with half of the persons present. There are no video conferences, but staff and members are utilising telephone conference technologies when in the town hall.
To further support the residents and businesses of Hildesheim, the team established a new enquiries telephone line in the town hall, offering advice and information on financial and practical difficulties.
Currently all public events are prohibited. Some performances of Hildesheim’s cultural workers have been broadcast online. There have also been several balcony parties, where DJs have played music on a balcony to residents on neighbouring balconies, allowing them an opportunity to have a dance to the music together. Similarly to the UK, it was always possible for residents to go for a walk outdoors, but only in pairs, or if it is a family living in one household, the whole family at once.
Oliver Rösner, from the Mayor’s Office said:
Personally, I didn’t meet my parents for several weeks, only via video phone. Since then, we have met from time-to-time at a distance. I only go to the supermarket once or twice a week. During the day I work at home, or two days a week in the town hall. But after work, life is very quiet, because everybody stays at home and everything is closed. Sometimes I leave home at the weekend to take part in sports, or to go to the countryside to go hiking in isolation with Anja. I often think back to the happier time before the virus, when in January 2020 the Mayor of Weston-super-Mare, Mark Canniford was in Hildesheim with his delegation. But gladly, I still do enjoy the occasional video call to my friend Chris Millard, the Civic Officer for Weston-super-Mare Town Council.
Many shops are closed, which is very sad for the economy. People are still quiet, but all those who cannot make money due to this situation are very sad. It is very hard time for them. Many people have applied for state support.
We can read a lot in the press about the situation in England. We are grateful for the report about the current situation from our friends in Weston-super-Mare, which we have put online on the website of the city of Hildesheim (available at www.hildesheim.de). We are all very sad that already over 30,000 UK residents have died. Our thoughts are with you.
Jupp Gerhardy from the Weston/Hildesheim Youth Exchange adds:
I hope you and all around you are well. At the moment it seems, that the covid numbers are going down a little bit. I hope that we will not have a ‘second wave’ after opening more shops and facilities. The question is, will our next (Weston) exchange be able to take place? We have to see what happens then. We may be able to try it again in March next year. In the meantime, we will keep our student group from March informed about the situation in Weston.