‘Not seen since the Second World War’: Cologne set to impose 9pm Covid curfew

Cologne has become the latest German city to put in place curfew restrictions in response to rising coronavirus infections.

'Not seen since the Second World War': Cologne set to impose 9pm Covid curfew
People walking in Cologne this week. Photo: DPA

As The Local has been reporting, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the federal government are in the process of amending the Infection Protection Act in order to bring in tougher, nationwide Covid measures, including curfews in hotspots.

However, the law change is still making its way through parliament – and some federal states, including Hamburg, have already started taking action.

And Cologne mayor Henriette Reker said on Friday that a night-time curfew would be coming to Cologne amid rising rates.

It will be in place from Saturday during the hours of 9pm and 5am.

“I don’t think there has been a curfew in Cologne since the Second World War,” said Reker on Friday. “The coming weeks will be tough.”

READ ALSO: ‘No way around it’: Merkel defends Germany-wide Covid measures

Reker said it was unclear how long the measure, which comes into force on Saturday at midnight, would be in place.

The city, in western Germany, is responding to a surge in Covid-19 cases. The number of infections per 100,000 residents within seven days stands at 162.7 – well above the threshold of 100 that German states are aiming to stay below.

After the curfew comes into effect, people will be ordered to stay at home between 9pm and 5am. Residents are only allowed to leave their homes for a valid reason. This can include medical appointments, emergencies, work or accompanying sick people.

In future, consuming alcohol and having barbecues will also be prohibited in public green spaces.

Anyone who is caught violating the curfew could be hit with a fine of €250.

READ ALSO: When could Germany’s nationwide ’emergency brake’ measures go into effect?

Reker said the nightly curfew aims to reduce contacts even more, especially meetings at home, mutual visits and parties, which people are unfortunately having.

“The intensive care units are at their limit,” Reker said. “Already at this point, not all our hospitals can comprehensively deal for medical emergencies.”

Reker said she believes the measure are proportionate, but is prepared for complaints.

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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.