Bavaria plans to open for tourists on May 21st

On Tuesday the southern state of Bavaria - a major holiday destination for Germans - announced tourism should be possible in region at the beginning of the Whitsun holidays on May 21st in areas with low coronavirus infection rates.

Bavaria plans to open for tourists on May 21st
A hotel in scenic Schwangau, Bavaria in 2019. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Günther

In districts and cities with a stable 7-day incidence of less than 100 Covid infections per 100,000 residents, hotels, holiday apartments and campsites would be allowed to reopen to all guests.

“It should be possible to have openings for hotels, holiday homes, holiday apartments and campsites again from Friday, May 21st,” said state premier Markus Söder.

Within the particularly popular Alpine region, the districts of Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Rosenheim currently have less than 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days. 

READ ALSO: Dozens of German districts and cities see major drop in Covid-19 cases

Relaxation of other measures

On Monday, Söder also announced that outdoor restaurants, theatres, and cinemas would be able to open, as long as the regional 7-day incidence stayed stable below 100.

These businesses would be able to welcome guests with reservations and negative coronavirus tests.

Söder announced at the start of the week that primary schools could also reopen immediately in regions with an incidence under 165 – the standard set by the federal ’emergency brake’ – rather than the current rate of 100 set by Bavaria.

READ ALSO: Germany pulls virus ’emergency brake’ but not everyone on board

All students would have to wear FFP2 masks and take regular negative coronavirus tests.

He did not yet specify whether and when secondary schools would be included.

Coronavirus in Bavaria

But the southern state still has a long way to go to get infection numbers down. Bavaria as a whole had a 7-day rate of 144.7 as of Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Furthermore hospitals in 15 of the 96 Bavarian districts and independent cities no longer have any intensive care beds available. 

Amid worries over still-high infection numbers and lack of an adequate hygiene plan, Söder announced on Monday that the world-famous Oktoberfest would be cancelled for the second year in a row.

READ ALSO: Munich’s Oktoberfest cancelled again over Covid

What are the current coronavirus rules for Bavaria?

-Flower stores, bookstores and garden centres can reopen as of Friday April 28th regardless of local incidence rate.

-Drive-in theaters are permitted regardless of incidence. FFP2 masks are mandatory for visitors who are outside of their cars and on the premises.

-The outdoor areas of zoos and botanical gardens may also be opened in areas above a 7-day incidence of 100 under the following conditions: Hygiene plans, no more than a 24-hour-old test for all visitors six years and older, and FFP2 masks.

-Above a seven-day incidence of 100, children under 14 are allowed to participate in non-contact outdoor sports in groups of no more than five.

-Supervision of children under 14 years of age in permanent, family or neighborhood child care arrangements continues to be permitted.

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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.