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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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.