Why has Bavaria been hit so hard in the coronavirus pandemic?

Why has Bavaria been hit so hard in the coronavirus pandemic?
A policeman in the town of Mitterteich, Bavaria, patrolling during the lockdown. Photo: DPA
Bavaria has overtaken North Rhine-Westphalia to become the German state with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. We look at what’s happening.

As of Wednesday afternoon, April 1st, Germany's largest state, Bavaria, had recorded around 16,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data – a number that’s increasing by hundreds every day.

There were also more than 240 deaths recorded – the highest number in Germany.

Up until Sunday, Germany's most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the west of the country was recording the most confirmed cases and deaths.

Although there are still high numbers there, it’s clear that the state of Bavaria is also firmly in the grip of the pandemic.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health in Germany reported on March 31st that there were 113 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants in Bavaria.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

 

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The only other state or city-state with more cases is Hamburg, where there are 120 cases per 100,000 citizens.

Every five days the number of confirmed cases in Bavaria doubles – the highest nationwide growth.

However, this is an improvement according to state premier Markus Söder, who said previously they were doubling every 2.8 days.

Public life has come to a standstill in the state after a lockdown was introduced on March 21st. As The Local reported, the restrictions will be extended until at least April 19th.

Here we look at how the pandemic has spread in Bavaria.

Skiing holidays thought to have fuelled outbreak

The very first confirmed case in Germany was recorded in Bavaria back in January. Thanks to swift action, authorities seemed to get this outbreak under control and were able to keep numbers low.

However, unknown to anyone at the time, coronavirus was spreading furiously through other countries and to parts of Germany, in particular Bavaria.

During Germany's carnival holidays in February 2020, lots of people, including Bavarians, went skiing in South Tyrol and Austria. According to Health Minister Jens Spahn, this points to an important source when working out the spread of coronavirus.

“The outbreak we have at the moment has a lot to do with those returning from their skiing holiday,” Spahn previously said.

Archive photo shows skiers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria. Photo: DPA

On March 14th facilities in the ski resort of Ischgl in Tyrol were closed because it was classified as a risk area, reported local broadcaster BR24.

However, many guests and employees using the ski lifts or restaurants and bars may have unknowingly had the virus and passed it on.

Mobile phone data show the spread of holidaymakers

Consulting company umlaut evaluated mobile phone data and tracked where ski guests travelled after their vacation in Ischgl.

“With the help of our evaluations we can see which places they travelled to after a stay in Ischgl, and where possible contacts might have taken place,” Hakan Ekmen, head of telecommunications at umlaut told BR24.

The analysis by umlaut shows the highest travel density in Austria, Switzerland, the Strasbourg region and southern Germany, especially in Munich and Stuttgart.

But it wasn't only the closer surroundings of Ischgl which were affected; skiers also returned to Scandinavia, for example to Oslo, the region around Helsinki and Örebro.

South Tyrol in Italy has been considered a coronavirus 'risk area' since March 5th.

As the outbreak grew, all school pupils who had gone to South Tyrol during carnival holidays were told to stay at home and not come into school. This regulation applied in Bavaria from March 9th.

“The risk of transmission is particularly high among children, because childhood play regularly brings about spontaneous close physical contact between the children,” a press release from the Bavarian Ministry of Health said.

Which parts of Bavaria are most affected?

Up until now, the district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia had been the region in Germany with the most corona infections per capita of the population.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, there are 483 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the district.

Since the weekend, however, the Bavarian Upper Palatinate district of Tirschenreuth has been leading the statistics with 517 coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

READ ALSO: Which parts of Germany are worst affected by coronavirus?

Why?

We don't know exactly. On March 7th there was a beer festival in the town of Mitterteich in the district of Tirschenreuth. There are suspicions that the infection could have spread there, however, nobody knows for certain.

Mitterteich became the first town in Germany to impose a lockdown, which has been in place since March 18th.

READ ALSO: Bavarian town becomes first in Germany to impose lockdown

Looking at the Bavarian administrative districts as a whole, Upper Bavaria, where Munich is, has the highest case numbers per 100,000 inhabitants and also the highest number of deaths.

According to RKI data, the city of Munich had, as of Wednesday, more than 2,600 cases.

The Upper Palatinate, where Regensburg is situated, follows in second place. So far, Middle Franconia, where Nuremberg lies, is the least affected.

All in all, cities are more affected than rural regions where people live further apart. Eastern German states such as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg or Saxony-Anhalt show comparatively low infection rates.

So far, there is only speculation as to why the case numbers in Germany are distributed so differently. Skiing holidays in high-risk areas, but also the high level of enthusiasm for travel among Bavarians and city dwellers in general, are likely to have contributed to the spread of coronavirus in this particular part of Germany.


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