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CARNIVAL

Police step up patrols as Germany’s carnival season starts online

Cologne and Düsseldorf are usually visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists on November 11th for the start of Karneval season.

Police step up patrols as Germany's carnival season starts online
Carnival in Cologne on 11.11.2019 - a very different world. Photo: DPA

But this year, events are cancelled.

Due to the pandemic, including the fact that Germany is in a nationwide shutdown for the month of November, the large street parties of carnival can't go ahead.

“Stay at home,” North Rhine-Westphalia interior minister Herbert Reul appealed to citizens. Police will monitor compliance with the coronavirus rules and “consistently intervene in case of violations”, said the Christian Democrat (CDU) politician.

All street celebrations are cancelled this year and a ban on alcohol is in force.

It's a bitter pill for the regions of Germany that celebrate Karneval. It has been an integral part of life in Cologne and many other Catholic cities since the Middle Ages. It is traditionally a time for satire and tomfoolery, when locals dress up as Jecken (fools).

Cologne's carnival is the biggest in Germany. Millions of people normally turn out on the city's street during the Rosenmontag parade in late winter. But this year it is set to be quiet.

The cancellation is a huge economic blow – from pubs and restaurants to venues, hotels and costume shops, all have suffered losses.

Police will be on duty with several hundred units to ensure bans are observed. A rally against coronavirus protection regulations has also been registered in the city.

But carnival enthusiasts are sending a special signal opposing these demos: the Rote Funken – the oldest traditional Cologne carnival group – plan to raise a plane with a message banner above the city centre. On one side, it will carry the message: “Bliev zohuss” (stay at home) in the regional language. On the other side it will say “stay healthy” in German.

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'Not a call to party'

In Düsseldorf, the traditional carnival spirit Hoppeditz awakening is taking place in digital form.

The Düsseldorf Carnival Committee set up the hoppeditz.helau.cc website for this purpose. Instead of climbing out of a pot on the square in front of the town hall in front of several thousand spectators, Hoppeditz actor Tom Bauer will give his speech behind closed doors. The traditional response to Hoppeditz will be given by the new Lord Mayor Stephan Keller.

READ ALSO: Düsseldorf Helau! How I embraced the Rhineland's carnival celebrations

Meanwhile, the Bund Deutscher Karneval (BDK) is inviting people across the country to the first digital opening – starting around 11.11 am.

“We still want to be present in these times and bring joy into living rooms,” said BDK President Klaus-Ludwig Fess. But this is not a call to party. “People should stay at home and not go out,” he said.

A programme of events will be offered online at www.karnevaldeutschland.de.

Due to the pandemic, large events are cancelled for the carnival session 2020/21. The BDK has around 2.6 million members in more than 5,300 clubs and guilds throughout Germany.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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