EXPLAINED: How Hamburg is relaxing its Covid rules

Germany’s second largest city is relaxing its coronavirus rules on Tuesday, reflecting an improving epidemic situation in the harbour city.

EXPLAINED: How Hamburg is relaxing its Covid rules
People on the Hamburg harbour front in late May. Photo: dpa | Georg Wendt

The Hamburg city senate has agreed a whole host of new relaxations to its pandemic rules, which will come into force at midnight on Tuesday.

The city justified the move by saying that “infection rates have stayed stable in recent weeks despite the lifting of many restrictions.”

The relaxations to the rules come as the northern city-sate has a current rate of 11 cases per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days.

Gatherings & events

Starting Tuesday, ten people from different households will be able to meet indoors again. Up until now only five people from separate households have been allowed to meet inside.

People who have recovered and those who are fully vaccinated are not bound by the restrictions, nor are children.

Gatherings of up to ten people outdoors are already allowed.

Any gathering larger than that is treated like an official event. That means that people still need to present a negative test when they arrive and have to wear face masks when standing.

Weddings, which are considered to be events without fixed seating, can take place outdoors with up to 250 people, or up to 50 people indoors.

For events with fixed seating, there will now be a limit of 500 guests for outdoor events and 100 guests indoors.

Dining & shopping

In the gastronomy sector, people are allowed to eat and drink once again while standing. Indoor diners will still have to provide a negative test result. Everyone will have to provide contact details for contact tracing purposes.

Large stores can also now allow in double the amount of shoppers – up from one person per 20 square metres to two people per 20 square metres.

Tourism, sport, religion

Some sporting activities will become considerably easier: the city will once again allow indoor contact sport with up to ten participants.

People taking tours of the city or its harbour will no longer have to provide a negative test, while they will only have to wear medical masks rather than FFP2 masks.

There is also good news for religious communities: singing will once again be allowed in the city’s churches and other places of worship.

SEE ALSO: Hamburg to open restaurants earlier than planned as Covid incidence falls below 50 mark

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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.