Germany orders more than 300 people into quarantine after Sylt holiday

Germany is beginning to reopen after months of shutdown - and some areas are even welcoming tourists again. But if positive Covid cases are detected, it can result in hundreds having to quarantine.

Germany orders more than 300 people into quarantine after Sylt holiday
The island of Sylt in April. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Axel Heimken

A recent case on the holiday island of Sylt, Schleswig-Holstein, shows the difficulties a holiday in Germany can currently entail.

A couple, who went on vacation to the German island in the Frisian archipelago in the North Sea around May 6th, tested positive for coronavirus after they returned home.

According to contact tracing, they had visited four restaurants and other services while on the island. 

This has had direct consequences for a large number of people, including other holidaymakers, who had been in the vicinity of the couple.

READ ALSO: Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide

German authorities have now asked a total of more than 300 people to quarantine in connection with the case, local broadcaster NDR reported on Thursday.

For data protection reasons, it has not been revealed where the couple lives in Germany. 

As part of a project to see how tourism can work on Sylt, holidaymakers have to take a coronavirus rapid test every 48 hours and report the result to their accommodation provider. However, in this case the positive infections appears not to have been caught in that process.

On Monday Schleswig-Holstein became the first state in Germany to completely open up hotels and indoor dining. The move comes ahead of a national three-day weekend.

READ ALSO: First German state opens completely for tourism

The state has the lowest rate of coronavirus infection in the whole country, with the 7-day incidence rate currently standing at 31.4 per 100,000 inhabitants.

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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.