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HEALTH

‘Super spreader’ Bielefeld party leads to 900 people in quarantine and calls for tougher rules

A growing number of young people in the North Rhine-Westphalian city of Bielefeld have been ordered to go into quarantine following a family party.

'Super spreader' Bielefeld party leads to 900 people in quarantine and calls for tougher rules
A testing centre in Bielefeld in August. Photo: DPA

Due to the large number of pupils in attendance, a total of 10 schools in the area were affected, according to a statement issued by the city.

However, it is not known the total number of people at the party a week ago, which local media dubbed as a “super spreader” event.

By Monday, the number of people who needed to go into self-isolation grew to 900 – accounting for the students at the party and their teachers – as the number of confirmed cases rose to 36.

The number of people who tested positive could increase even further as more tests are underway Monday afternoon, said local authorities.

Following the outbreak, the district council advocated a uniform upper limit of 50 people at private celebrations including weddings and birthday parties.

Current rules for parties in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW)

Currently private celebrations in NRW are allowed to take place with up to 150 people. Masks are not required to be worn, as long as it’s possible to trace those in attendance, according to the local rules. 

But from October 1st, private parties in NRW with 50 or more participants must be registered with the local public order office (Ordnungsamt) at least two weeks in advance.

North Rhine-Westphalia saw 1,865 coronavirus cases in the last seven days, making it the third most affected state behind Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. 

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in February, the state has confirmed 68,720 coronavirus cases, 59,178 of which are reported to have recovered. 

Coronavirus infection rates around Germany have recently reached levels not seen since April, leading Chancellor Angela Merkel of the centre-right Christian Democrats to make a call on Monday for tougher enforcement of rules to stem the spread of the virus.

READ ALSO: Merkel warns coronavirus cases in Germany 'could leap up by 19,200 daily by Christmas'

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities has furthermore called for mask wearing to be made mandatory at busy squares and Christmas markets in the event of high infection rates. 

In view of the approaching flu season, health expert Karl Lauterbach of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) has called for free flu vaccinations for everyone with statutory health insurance.

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COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

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