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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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now