German horse-mad town on lockdown to stop coronavirus

A tiny town in northern Germany known as an equestrian hotspot has gone into lockdown after just one woman tested positive for the coronavirus, with horse-riding schools closed and hundreds of residents forced into quarantine.

German horse-mad town on lockdown to stop coronavirus
In the town of Neustadt -Dosse in Brandenburg has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: DPA

The Prinz von Homburg school, a daycare centre and two equestrian boarding schools have been closed since Monday to halt the spread of the coronavirus in Neustadt-Dosse, about a 90-minute drive from Berlin.

The town, in the northern state of Brandenburg, is a hub for horse riding and the Prinz von Homburg school even offers riding lessons as part of its curriculum, but the clatter of hooves could not be heard there on Tuesday.

Instead, rows of empty chairs lined the classrooms.

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At the nearby daycare, the windows were lined with colourful paper cut-outs of balloons, suns and butterflies, but behind them the rooms were dark and empty.

Teachers at the schools were among 19 people who took part in a meeting with a horse breeder from Berlin, who later tested positive for the virus.

All students and teachers, as well as their immediate family members, have been called on to stay at home until the end of the incubation period on March 17th.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: What restrictions are there on daily life in Germany?

'Something should have happened sooner'

In a statement, local authorities said that a “maximum of 2,250 people” would be affected by the quarantine.

That number included people from “several areas in Brandenburg and other federal states”, they added.

Neustadt-Dosse itself has only 3,400 inhabitants.

READ ALSO: 'Corona-Holidays': Is closing German schools over virus fears the right call?

The Prinz von Homburg school in Neustadt-Dosse with a closure notice. Photo: DPA

Mother Nicole Lasch, who cares for her parents-in-law and works as a cleaner in the evenings, is affected by the quarantine because two of her children go to the Prinz von Homburg school.

“Something should have happened a lot sooner,” she tells AFP. “The children have carried on going to school for a week now, even longer.”

Lasch is observing the quarantine as best she can, but still has to pay regular visits to her parents-in-law as they are unable to care for themselves. Others may not be so diligent.

The decision to close the school and implement the quarantine was taken in consultation with the local health authorities, says senior local official Dieter Fuchs.

He trusts the people of Neustadt-Dosse to take a sensible approach.

“They know what coronavirus means, what effect it can have and the particularly endangered groups.”

Lasch, for her part, is not too worried. “We could all catch it one way or another,” she says.

By Larissa Rausch

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Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

It’s back again: amid sinking temperatures, the incidence of Covid-19 has been slowly rising in Germany. But is this enough to merit worrying about the virus?

Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

More people donning face masks in supermarkets, friends cancelling plans last minute due to getting sick with Covid-19. We might have seen some of those familiar reminders recently that the coronavirus is still around, but could there really be a resurgence of the virus like we experienced during the pandemic years?

According to virologists, the answer seems to be ‘maybe’: since July, the number of people newly infected with Covid-19 has been slowly rising from a very low level.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), nine people per 100,000 inhabitants became newly infected in Germany last week. A year ago, there were only around 270 reported cases.

Various Corona variants are currently on the loose in the country. According to the RKI,  the EG.5 (also called Eris) and XBB.1.16 lines were each detected in the week ending September 3rd with a share of just under 23 percent. 

The highly mutated variant BA.2.86 (Pirola), which is currently under observation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), also arrived in the country this week, according to RKI. 

High number of unreported case

The RKI epidemiologists also warned about a high number of unreported cases since hardly any testing is done. They pointed out that almost half of all registered sewage treatment plants report an increasing viral load in wastewater tests.

The number of hospital admissions has also increased slightly, but are still a far cry from the occupation rate amid the pandemic. Last week it was two per 100,000 inhabitants. In the intensive care units, only 1.2 percent of all beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Still, a good three-quarters (76.4 percent) of people in Germany have been vaccinated at least twice and thus have basic immunity, reported RKI. 

Since Monday, doctors’ offices have been vaccinating with the adapted vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer, available to anyone over 12 years old, with a vaccine for small children set to be released the following week and one for those between 5 and 11 to come out October 2nd.

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has so far only recommended that people over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who should get a Covid jab this autumn in Germany?

“The pandemic is over, the virus remains,” he said. “We cannot predict the course of coming waves of corona, but it is clear that older people and people with pre-existing conditions remain at higher risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19”

The RKI also recommended that people with a cold voluntarily wear a mask. Anyone exhibiting cough, cold, sore throat or other symptoms of a respiratory illness should voluntarily stay at home for three to five days and take regular corona self-tests. 

However, further measures such as contact restrictions are not necessary, he said.

One of many diseases

As of this autumn, Covid-19 could be one of many respiratory diseases. As with influenza, there are no longer absolute infection figures for coronavirus.

Saarbrücken pharmacist Thorsten Lehr told German broadcaster ZDF that self-protection through vaccinations, wearing a mask and getting tested when symptoms appear are prerequisites for surviving the Covid autumn well. 

Only a new, more aggressive mutation could completely turn the game around, he added.

On April 7th of this year, Germany removed the last of its over two-year long coronavirus restrictions, including mask-wearing in some public places.

READ ALSO: German doctors recommend Covid-19 self-tests amid new variant