Cologne’s famous Christmas market cancelled amid coronavirus concerns

The famous Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral has been cancelled for this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cologne's famous Christmas market cancelled amid coronavirus concerns

“We have cancelled the market and sent a letter to all stallholders informing them of the decision”, said Monika Flocke, the managing director of the Cologne Christmas Society.

“We spent weeks thinking about how we could organise the market in a way that would prevent spreading the virus, but ultimately we couldn’t find a solution”, said Flocke. The risk, she said, is simply too high.

The Christmas market at Roncalliplatz is always a major attraction, drawing in around five million visitors a year. But there were fears that even if the market were more spaced out and access to the stalls were restricted, crowds of people could quickly form in front of the entrance.  

“We don’t want people to fall ill and for the Cologne Christmas market to be known as a hotspot. We don’t want a repeat of what happened in Ischgl (a virus hotspot at the start of the pandemic),” said Flocke. “We can’t bear that responsibility.”

READ ALSO: Germany plans ahead for Christmas Markets amid summer heat

Germany’s beloved Weihnachtsmärkte, which form an integral part of the Christmas season, are facing significant challenges this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

They attract hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe each year, bringing vital revenue to hotels, restaurants and bars in the surrounding area. 

Planning is underway in many regions to ensure that the markets can open safely despite the pandemic. 

It remains to be seen as to whether Cologne’s decision will lead to cancellations in other cities.

There's also been a heated debate over whether Carnival celebrations should go ahead in some form. It's celebrated mainly in February and March but has some events starting on November 11th.


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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.”