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CONFRONTING CORONAVIRUS

Confronting coronavirus: The Local examines how Europe is tackling the crisis

In a new series of articles, The Local's journalists across Europe will take an in-depth look at the responses to different parts of the crisis, what's worked, what hasn't, and why.

Confronting coronavirus: The Local examines how Europe is tackling the crisis
If a programme has had positive results, we'll look at how it could be replicated; if it's failed, we'll investigate why. Photo: AFP

The coronavirus epidemic has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of each community it has affected, and given us an opportunity to learn from each other's successes and failures. Amid states of emergency and global travel restrictions, the world may feel smaller, but it's a time when collaboration and looking outwards has never been more important.

No country has stopped the pandemic or solved the accompanying crisis, but there are initiatives being implemented to deal with its devastating impact.

From the development of new treatments to government aid for businesses and from ways of dealing with loneliness to financial support for freelancers, there is now a worldwide focus on trying to mitigate the harmful impact of this virus.

Over the coming weeks The Local's journalists, based at the heart of affected communities, will take a detailed look at some of the solutions put forward to deal with the huge knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

This will include large-scale responses by governments, for example how France and Germany have tried to support small businesses and how Switzerland has tried to help parents affected by the crisis. It will also include smaller-scale responses, such as efforts by a region, community group, or individual hospitals or business to mitigate the impact of the outbreak.

You can view the articles published so far in our new section on all homepages titled Confronting Coronavirus.

Looking at how countries are facing the pandemic, and evaluating how well different strategies are working, is essential not only to highlight the signs of progress, but also for holding decision-makers to account.

These articles will inform the rest of our coverage moving forward. If a programme has had positive results in one location, we'll look at what it would take to export that response elsewhere. If it's failed, we can look at what would be needed to improve it. Responses can't be copied entirely with an expectation of the same results in a different contexts, but we'll look for key takeaways that can inform policies elsewhere.

It doesn't mean we'll be switching our focus; we will continue to report on the problems that are still awaiting a response. And don't worry, we will also keep writing the essential practical guides and up-to-date news reports you need in order to navigate life here.

We also know that the crisis has a unique impact on the lives of those living outside their home country, who may lack a support network in their new home, and are often more likely to have insecure housing and employment. As always, our readers will be at the core of our coverage, and we will continue speaking to you about your experiences of the crisis.

This kind of in-depth, responsible reporting is essential, but it costs money. This project has been supported by a $5,000 grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.

Thanks to this grant, all articles in the section will be free for other media outlets to republish.

As well as the Solutions Journalism Network, we are grateful for the support of our community of paying members. The 25,000 of you who have joined us have not only helped us to survive the crisis up until now, but allowed us to focus this important reporting on issues that affect our readers' lives and not just stories to garner 'clicks'.

If you would like to support The Local in our goal to provide essential and responsible English-language reporting from across Europe during this crisis and beyond, you can find out more here.

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COVID-19

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.

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