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BAVARIA

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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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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