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WINTER

Hundreds of Germans flout Covid rules to enjoy snow

German ski resorts are closed this year because of the coronavirus situation. But snow in some regions of the country drew winter sports fans – despite the lockdown restrictions.

Hundreds of Germans flout Covid rules to enjoy snow
People enjoying the snow in Winterberg on Monday. The city council had urged people to turn back due to the crowds at the weekend. Photo: DPA

People in Germany have been urged to stay at home as much as possible and avoid travel as the country grapples with high Covid-19 cases.

But snowfall in the Erzgebirge, Sauerland and Black Forest regions attracted winter sports fans, resulting in violations of coronavirus restrictions, groups of people and large traffic jams.

Police swooped on the Fichtelberg in the Ore Mountains in Saxony as people ignored the rules to experience the snowy weather.

Officers registered more than 100 violations of restrictions on Christmas Day and Boxing Day alone.

Social networks were flooded with pictures of people taking advantage of the Christmas holidays to go sledging or for a walk in the snow on the Fichtelberg – in some areas, they were crowded together.

The eastern state of Saxony has the highest coronavirus rate in Germany and is currently in a strict lockdown, with a curfew in place.

People are only allowed to leave their homes for a valid reason. Resident can only travel up to 15km from their home for exercise or essential shopping. From December 24th to 26th the contact restrictions were relaxed, but not other rules.

Traffic jams and accidents in Sauerland

According to police, the resort town of Winterberg, which was covered in snow, also experienced a rush of visitors on Sunday with traffic jams and a number of traffic accidents.

A police spokesman for the Hochsauerland district in North Rhine-Westphalia reported extremely high numbers of visitors and traffic congestion.

The city council of Winterberg had asked everyone to stop travelling to the area on its Facebook page.

“The traffic situation is currently already coming to an extreme head again,” the city wrote on its website on Monday, urging people to turn around and not visit the area.

All parking capacities are exhausted and the roads are clogged, the city said, adding that the ski lifts are closed anyway.

“Sledging at the lifts is not allowed, even though many do it,” they added.  Huts and toilets are also closed. “There are no refreshment or warm-up facilities,” the city council added. “Don't put yourself through the stress.”

Police check points set up to limit access

Similar scenes happened around the town of Dobel in the Black Forest, Baden-Württemberg, where police were also called at the weekend. According to the Pforzheimer Zeitung, officers closed the access roads to Dobel when the crowds became too large.

Later, when the car parks were overcrowded with day trippers, only residents and buses were allowed to pass the police checkpoints

Those who had a sled in their car had to turn back. There were also problems as cars were blocking driveways and parked on private property.

In view of the partly chaotic conditions, the state health ministry called on Monday for restraint for the upcoming long weekend.

“We appeal to people to refrain from day trips and not to push the existing rules to the limit,” said a spokesperson for the Baden-Württemberg Ministry.

He pointed out that the relaxations of curfew rules for private meetings only applied over the Christmas holidays.

On New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and the weekend, sports and exercise in the fresh air are only allowed alone, with members of your own household or with another person not living in the same household.

Quarantine obligation aimed at deterring tourists

It's not only in Germany where there's been chaos due to people flocking to the snow. However, in neighbouring Austria, the situation is different as ski resorts are allowed to open.

But there were such huge traffic jams at times over the weekend that some ski resorts pulled the emergency brake and closed access.

READ ALSO: Skiing in Austria – What does the coronavirus lockdown look like for winter sports?

Bodental in Carinthia, which offers winter hiking and cross-country skiing, remained closed on Sunday after Saturday's rush, as did the sledging meadows in Semmering, about 100 kilometres southwest of Vienna.

In Damüls in Vorarlberg, about 70 kilometres south of Lindau on Lake Constance, a large crowd had to be broken up by police.

In Austria, ski resorts are mainly only open to residents there.

For travellers from abroad (including Germany) there is a 10-day quarantine obligation, which aims to deter most tourists.

In addition, FFP2 masks as mouth and nose protection are mandatory for all skiers over 14 years of age who use gondolas or lifts or have to queue.

Member comments

  1. Maybe many people should lose their salary for a month or 5….
    Then they will start to take this pandemic seriously and behave.

    Still waiting on aid for November. No work in December. And January looks to be a complete right off.

    But keep travelling, not-social distancing and frolicking in the snow whilst many of us are following ALL the rules – and have been for ten months now! – and are suffering.

  2. And we’re surprised,I support the rights of parents to allow their kids to get outside and play. This lockdown is nuts, there is a serious mental health crisis brewing in Germany you can’t lock kids in the room spending hours per day play xbox and not expect problems. Parents give Merkel the middle finger and get you kids outside. Just remember a bit of common sense goes a long ways

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For members

COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Many Covid restrictions have been dropped in Germany, but some rules remain in place. And as infections increase again, it's important to be aware of what you should do if you get Covid.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Germany has relaxed or changed many Covid restrictions in recent months. However, with Covid infections rocketing again, people are reminding themselves of what rules remain in place, and what they have to do if they get a positive test.

Here’s a quick roundup of what you should know. 

Face masks

Covid masks have to be worn when travelling on public transport, including planes departing to and from Germany. 

They also have to be worn in places where there are more vulnerable people, such as care homes, hospitals and doctor offices. 

Masks are not mandatory anymore in shops (including supermarkets) and restaurants, but individual businesses can enforce the rule so watch out for signs on the door. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

FFP2 masks have become the standard in Germany, but in some cases other medical masks are sufficient.

There are no longer any entry rules to public venues such as the 3G or 2G rule, meaning that people had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

However, they could return in autumn if the infection protection laws are adapted, and if the Covid situation gets worse.

Mandatory isolation 

The rules on isolation differ from state to state, but there is one general requirement: those who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

If you get a positive result at home, you should go to a test centre and undergo a rapid antigen test. If it is positive, the quarantine obligation kicks in. If it is negative, you have to get a PCR test.

If you have Covid symptoms, you should contact your doctor, local health authorities or the non-emergency medical on-call service on 116 117. They can advise or whether you should get a PCR test. 

Across German states, the isolation period lasts 10 days, but – as we mentioned above – there are differences on how it can end earlier. 

In Berlin, for instance, it can be shortened from the fifth day with a negative test if you have been symptom free for 48 hours. If this isn’t the case, the isolation is extended until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours and tested negative. But you can leave without a negative test after 10 days. 

A positive Covid test.

A positive Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Anyone who tests positive for Covid using a rapid test at a testing centre can have a free PCR test to confirm whether they have Covid-19. If the PCR test is negative, there is no obligation to go into quarantine.

In Bavaria, the isolation period is five days after the first positive test. For isolation to end on day five you must be symptom free for at least 48 hours. Otherwise, isolation is extended for 48 hours at a time until the maximum of 10 days. 

A test-to-release is not needed to end the isolation, unless the person works in a medical setting. 

READ ALSO: Germany sets out new Covid isolation rules

After isolation, Bavaria recommends that you wear an FFP2 mask in public places indoors and reduce contact for an extra five days. 

The state of Hesse has a similar system to Bavaria where a test is not needed to end the isolation early (unless the person works in a medical setting).

In North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, residents can end their Covid isolation on the fifth day if they get a negative test (carried out at a testing centre). Otherwise the isolation period continues until the 10th day, or until they get a negative test.

Close contacts of people infected with Covid (including household contacts) no longer have to quarantine in Germany, but they are advised to get tested regularly and monitor for symptoms, as well as reduce contacts for five days. 

As ever, check with your local authority for the detailed rules.

Travel

Germany recently provisionally dropped almost all of its Covid travel restrictions, making it much easier to enter the country. 

The changes mean that entry into Germany is now allowed for all travel purposes, including tourism. The move makes travel easier – and cheaper – for people coming from non-EU countries, particularly families who may have needed multiple Covid tests for children. 

People also no longer have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test against Covid before coming to Germany – the so-called 3G rule. 

However, if a country is classed as a ‘virus variant’ region, tougher rules are brought in. 

It is likely that travel rules could be reinstated again after summer or if the Covid situation gets worse so keep an eye on any developments. 

READ ALSO: Germany drops Covid entry restrictions for non-EU travellers

Vaccine mandate

The mandate making Covid vaccinations compulsory for medical staff remains in place. A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote in April

READ ALSO: Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health care workers

Workplaces

Masks are no longer mandatory in workplaces, unless it is in a setting where more risks groups are, such as hospitals or care homes. 

The government no longer requires people to work from home, but employers and employees can reach their own ‘home office’ arrangement.

Tests are also no longer mandatory, but workplaces can offer their employees regular tests. 

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