Bavaria cancels all Christmas markets over Covid surge

The southern German state of Bavaria cancelled all of its popular Christmas markets this year due to a surge in Covid infections - and plans to close some other venues to fight the pandemic.

A mulled wine stall at the Christmas market at Rotkreuzplatz in Munich. Bavaria has now cancelled all of its Christmas markets.
A mulled wine stall at the Christmas market at Rotkreuzplatz in Munich. Bavaria has now cancelled all of its Christmas markets. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

“The situation is very, very serious and difficult,” state premier Markus Söder told a news conference at which he also announced a shutdown of clubs, bars and night service at restaurants to tame the fourth wave of the outbreak.

Bavaria had a weekly incidence rate of 625.3 recorded infections per 100,000 people on Friday, according to the Robert Koch Institute infectious disease centre, well above the nationwide figure of 340.7 – an all-time high for the country.

“We have a clear goal: fighting corona, protecting people and protecting the healthcare system,” Söder said.

The Bavarian state capital of Munich on Tuesday had become the first major German city to cancel its upcoming Christmas market, which usually draws some three million visitors, due to a “dramatic” coronavirus resurgence.

Other smaller markets had followed suit but Söder’s announcement reflects the increasingly drastic state of the virus’s spread, particularly in the
south and east of the country.

In addition to the new nightlife restrictions, sport and culture venues will be subject to a 25-percent capacity limit and retail outlets will have to
restrict customer flows, Söder said.

Parts of Bavaria with incidence rates above 1,000 – eight districts on Friday – will face even stricter curbs with only daycare facilities, schools and shops allowed to remain open. 

There will also be contact restrictions placed on unvaccinated people in Bavaria. They will only be allowed to meet a maximum of five people from two households. 

Children under 12 and those who have been vaccinated will not be included.

The state is expected to approve the new measures on Tuesday and they will be in effect until at least December 15th.

Germany hosts some 2,500 Christmas markets each year, cherished by visitors who come to savour mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, and shop for seasonal trinkets among clusters of wooden chalets.

In pre-pandemic times, they drew about 160 million domestic and international visitors annually who brought in revenues of three to five billion euros, according to the BSM stallkeepers’ industry association.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed Thursday to shut the unvaccinated out of restaurants, sporting events and cultural shows after new cases soared to an all-time daily high of more than 65,000.

KEY POINTS: Germany finalises new Covid restrictions for winter

However the director of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, told reporters Friday that with the exponential rise in infection levels, the curbs would be insufficient to contain the latest surge.

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Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

People in Germany have to isolate at home for at least five days if they test positive for Covid. But four states want to see a change to this rule.

Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

In a joint letter, the states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein called on Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to drop the isolation requirement for people who get a Covid infection in Germany. 

Baden-Württemberg health minister Manne Lucha, of the Greens, said there should be a move towards people taking personal responsibility rather than the state ordering an isolation period, reported the Tagesschau. 

“We should gradually get into the mode of treating a corona infection like any other infectious disease where the rule is: if you are sick, stay at home,” said the Green politician.

The rules on isolation differ slightly from state to state in Germany, but the general requirement is that people who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

In some states, and for hospital and care workers, a negative test is required to end the isolation period early.

Several politicians – as well as Andreas Gassen, chairman of the board of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, have previously spoken out in favour of ending all Covid isolation and quarantine obligations.

READ ALSO: Should Germany get rid of Covid mandatory isolation?

The four German states called on Lauterbach, of the Social Democrats, to change the rules by October 10th.

In their letter, they refer to Austria, where the isolation obligation has been replaced by so-called “traffic restrictions” since August 1st.

Under these rules, people who get Covid-19 have to wear an FFP2 mask for 10 days in most places, and they are not allowed to visit nursing homes and clinics. They can, however, go to their workplace.

“The end of mandatory isolation has not led to any relevant increase in reported cases in Austria,” the four German health ministers said in their letter.

They argued that much of the population in Germany is immunised, either through vaccination or infection.

However, Lauterbach has so far rejected calls to get rid of the isolation requirement. He said that due to Covid cases rising, he didn’t want to “add fuel to the fire” and increase the risk of infections occurring in companies or at gatherings.

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU), said he was worried about lots of people having to take time off work to isolate at the same time, which could put pressure on critical infrastructure. 

Schleswig-Holstein’s health minister Kerstin von der Decken (CDU), said the adjustment of the isolation rules would be “a step on the way back to normality.”