Nightly blaze of candles lit in homage to German coronavirus victims

As Germany slowly emerges from coronavirus lockdown, one woman is lighting a nightly installation of 8,000 candles in memory of the pandemic dead, determined to continue "until a vaccine is found".

At dusk each evening, 60-year-old Gertrud Schop makes the rounds of an imposing cross marked out with candles on the grass in Zella-Mehlis, a small town in central Thuringia state.

Each of the flickering flames represents one of the 8,000 people who has died in Germany since March.

READ ALSO: What we know about the victims of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany

Beginning early that month, Schop had originally planned to light a white candle for each person infected with the COVID-19 disease, alongside red lights for each who succumbed.

“I wanted to make visible the numbers from the Robert Koch Institute (for disease control),” said Schop, who was also motivated by her Christian faith.

Candles which Gertrud Schop has lit for coronavirus victims. Photo: AFP/Jens Schleuter

“Three numbers on a sheet of paper, a statistic, that doesn't touch people's hearts like this installation that grows day by day,” she added.

But as the number of cases quickly surged, reaching 176,000 confirmed infections so far, Schop gave up on the original plan switching instead to commemorating the dead alone.

She plans to continue the installation to keep their memory alive, even as the infection rate has slowed and Germany cautiously returns to everyday life.

Now the country — less hard hit than its European neighbours — has begun loosening the restrictions imposed to control the virus' spread, although Schop's determination to continue her memorial is undiminished.

Member comments

  1. A truly moving tribute. I hope this gets the message into some people who dismiss this as “just a bad flu”

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.