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German football fans hopes dampened as coronavirus cases rise

Bundesliga clubs had their hopes dampened on Monday of a partial return of football fans in stadiums when the new league season kicks off in Germany on September 18th.

German football fans hopes dampened as coronavirus cases rise
An empty football stadium in Stuttgart on Monday. Photo: DPA

Last week, the 36 clubs in Germany's top two tiers agreed to a four-point proposal by the German Football League (DFL) which could see fans return to stadiums despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Clubs agreed to sell personalised tickets to track spectators, no away fans for the rest of 2020, no alcohol allowed until October and fans seated only, with terraces to remain empty.

The plans, however, must first be approved by the German government.

READ ALSO: Bundesliga: How Germany plans for football fans to return to the stadium in September

Politician Dilek Kalayci, chairman of the conference of Germany's health ministers which met Monday, poured cold water on the league's hopes.

“We do not intend to pass a resolution on the DFL's hygiene concept,” Kalayci told newspaper Berliner Morgenpost before the conference.

“Professional football is not at the top of the health ministers' priority list.”

Germany's top flight clubs lose several million euros in lost match revenue for every home game played behind closed doors.

However, the number of the coronavirus are rising slightly in Germany with 436 new cases in the last 24 hours and a total of around 9,000 deaths.

In total, Germany had had a total of 217,322 coronavirus case, and 197,218 reported recoveries, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

The final nine rounds of league matches last season were all played behind closed doors.

A football match in Mönchengladbach, North Rhine-Westphalia on June 16th with the sign “Football without fans is nothing!” Photo: DPA

Frizt Keller, the president of the German FA, has raised the idea of mass testing of spectators next season, but Kalayci torpedoed the idea.

“The idea that, among other things, all fans in stadiums could be tested is viewed critically by the majority of ministers,” Kalayci added.

“Especially because before and after the game, no one can exclude and control large crowds of people and alcohol consumption.

“We currently need the testing capacity in many other areas – for example, schools, daycare centres, nursing homes, hospitals and people returning from travel.”

READ ALSO: 'Don't show up at the stadium': German fans warned ahead of Bundesliga restart

Meanwhile, the Marburger Bund, the association and trade union for doctors in Germany, also warned against a return of fans to the stadiums.

“The danger of a mass infection would be real,” chairperson Susanne Johna told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper.

“If we are unlucky, a 'superspreader' would sit among the fans and the virus will spread like wildfire.

“Someone may not have any symptoms at all yet, but still his throat is already full of the virus.

“And with the shouting and cheering (at a game), it (further infections) can happen in a flash.”

READ ALSO: 'Target clusters and superspreaders': Here's how Germany could prevent a second coronavirus wave

Johna says she has sympathy for the league's attempts to bring spectators back, “but the fact that their concept would prevent infections is unrealistic, in my opinion”.

She doubts fans can be expected to keep their distance during matches, because when a goal is scored, “you hug each other and don't think of corona”.

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COVID-19

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”

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