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HEALTH

German Bundesliga issues guidelines for fans’ return to stadiums

The return of supporters to German stadiums next season took a step closer on Wednesday as the 36 clubs in the Bundesliga's top two tiers received guidelines on how to keep spectators safe from infection amid the coronavirus pandemic.

German Bundesliga issues guidelines for fans' return to stadiums
When will real fans return to stadiums in Germany? AFP

The Bundesliga season finished at the end of June with the last nine round of matches played behind closed doors.

However, with clubs having lost millions in match day revenue, the German Football league (DFL) has provided help in how to create a safe environment in grounds.

READ ALSO: All eyes on Germany as Bundesliga football returns

“The guideline serves as an orientation for the basic structure” of hygiene concepts and “contains numerous aspects to be considered,” the DFL said in a statement.

Each club would need their concept approved by the local health authority.

The DFL's guide has already been submitted to the German government's Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) for evaluation.

As the league points out, the BMG says high standards of protection to prevent infection is a basic requirement before fans can return.

Germany has had around 200,000 coronavirus cases, the majority which have recovered, and recorded 9,071 deaths due to the virus.

Top clubs like champions Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig are reportedly already working on hygiene concepts which could see a number of fans return.

Dortmund have tested a system to measure body temperatures of supporters.

“I am hopeful that at least a small proportion of fans will be admitted again from September,” Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke said at the end of June.

Union Berlin are looking into playing home games in front of a full house when the 2020/21 campaign starts in Germany on September 18th.

Union want club employees tested and for all 22,000 ticket holders for each home game to produce a negative test for COVID-19 within 24 hours of kick-off.

However, Union's plans have already been criticised and a leading virologist dubbed it “irresponsible”.

“Until we have a vaccine, there won't be a full stadium,” Ulf Dittmer, director of virology at the University Hospital in Essen told newspaper WAZ.

Dittmer worries despite a negative test, someone could still be “infectious one day later in the stadium” and spread the virus on packed terraces.

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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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