German state Bavaria cancels all Christmas markets over virus
The German state of Bavaria on Friday cancelled all of its popular Christmas markets this year due to a surge in coronavirus infections as part of broader restrictions to fight the pandemic.
“The situation is very, very serious and difficult,” state premier Markus Soeder told a news conference as 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,” Soeder said.
The Bavarian state capital of Munich on Tuesday had become the first major German city to cancel its Christmas market, which usually draws some three million visitors, due to a “dramatic” coronavirus resurgence.
Other smaller markets had followed suit but Soeder’s announcement reflects the increasingly drastic state of the virus’s spread, particularly in the south and east of the country.
– ‘Health, of course’ –
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 ($3.4 billion to $5.6 billion), according to the BSM stallkeepers’ industry association.
“It’s a catastrophe for us,” Eleonore Stiegel, who operates a stand at the Christmas market in the historic town of Bamberg, told AFP.
“We have already bought our wares and now are left with nothing for the second year in a row.”
Konrad Friedrich, who also plies his trade at the Bamberg market, said he could understand the decision given the explosion in infections.
“What’s more important? The market or health?” he said. “Health, of course.”
In addition to the new nightlife restrictions, Bavarian sport and culture venues will be subject to a 25-percent capacity limit and retail outlets will have to restrict customer flows, Soeder 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 continue operations until at least mid-December.
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 nationwide after new cases soared to an all-time daily high of more than 65,000.
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.