Cologne’s ‘carnival prince’ tests positive for Covid-19

Cologne’s Carnival trio has cancelled all their events after “Prince” Sven Oleff tested positive for coronavirus, as Germany sees a huge rise in infections.

Prince Sven Oleff (pictured in the middle) has tested positive for Covid-19.
Prince Sven Oleff (pictured in the middle) has tested positive for Covid-19. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Gemeinnützige Gesellschaft des Kölner Karnevals mbH | Costa Belibasakis

Carnival celebrations in Cologne are going ahead without their usual presiding trio after designated “Prince” Sven Oleff tested positive for Covid-19 the day before the start of celebrations on November 11th.

Oleff, who is fully vaccinated, is reporting no symptoms so far and says he feels good. His counterparts Gereon Glasemacher, and designated “Jungfrau” Björn Braun, have so far tested negative. As a precaution though, Carnival organisers have cancelled all their appearances.

Oleff said he was sad that he won’t be opening the festivities but that he understands the precautions.

“Get vaccinated!” He urged. He says he is confident that his own vaccination will leave him with only a mild infection, and that he looks forward to being over it in a couple of days.

It comes as Germany saw 50,196 new cases in the past 24 hours on Thursday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency – the first time the figure has exceeded 50,000.

READ ALSO: Germany sees more than 50,000 Covid cases in 24 hours

Germany’s Carnival season is typically celebrated in the country’s west, with Cologne hosting the main festivities. Normally starting at 11:11 am on November 11th every year, they were cancelled last year due to the Covid crisis.

This year, entry into official events in Cologne is under “2G” rules, and is restricted to the vaccinated and recovered only. The 2G rules also include official outdoor events.

Carnival “King” Klaus-Ludwig Fess, head of the German carnival association, recently told Rheinische Post online: “I’m actually hopeful that it will be like before Corona again.”

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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.