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Germans return to pools and beer gardens as Covid-19 curbs ease across country

Germany has been in some form of virus shutdown since November.

People sit in the late afternoon in the Ankerklause
People sit in the late afternoon in the Ankerklause
Image: DPA/PA Images

MANY GERMANS WERE able to visit a beer garden, dine outdoors or go swimming for the first time in months today as parts of the country began easing Covid-19 curbs.

Germany has been in some form of virus shutdown since November and tentative reopenings in March were quickly quashed by national “emergency brake” measures to stop a spiralling third wave of the virus.

But with case numbers falling and the country ramping up its vaccination effort, many cities and regions were lifting restrictions over the Pentecost holiday weekend.

Berliner Sonja Gellfart was already in the outdoor pool at the Sommerbad am Insulaner at 7.30am.

“It’s the feeling of freedom because one can get in here and be outdoors, and without a mask,” she told AFP as other swimmers splashed past.

The past year has been a big challenge economically for Berlin’s pools because “the number of visitors has dropped significantly”, said Johannes Kleinsorg of the city swimming baths authority.

Even now, numbers are restricted and bathers must book an appointment online and keep their distance.

‘Keeping fingers crossed’

“We still have the pandemic, with much higher incidence rates than when the pools were allowed to reopen a year ago,” Kleinsorg said.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that it will be a great summer, also in terms of the weather.”

Elsewhere in Berlin, beer gardens and restaurants were getting ready to welcome guests outdoors.

The city had already on Wednesday allowed open-air cinemas to restart, as well as for theatres and opera houses to hold performances outdoors with up to 250 participants.

Customers must provide either a negative test or proof they have been fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.

“I think customers will get used to it and get tested more often,” said Jan, a waiter at the Zazza cafe in central Berlin.

corona-berlin Swimmers do their laps in the Prinzenbad in Kreuzberg Source: DPA/PA Images

Armed with a negative test result on his phone, customer David Gasarabo was happy to take a seat on the terrace and enjoy “the atmosphere of normality after all those months of standing with a coffee in my hand”.

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Relaxations are also planned from today in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as other states including Thuringia, Saxony and the city of Hamburg.

Bavaria has already opened outdoor dining and beer gardens, and today will open hotels and guest houses in areas with low incidence rates.

Health Minister Jens Spahn today said Germany had broken the third wave of infections but urged the public to remain careful.

“The pandemic is not over yet. Let’s enjoy the holidays, but let’s remain cautious,” he said, advising people to meet outdoors where possible and get tested regularly.

“Infection figures down, vaccination figures up – if we can manage this combination in the next few weeks, we can look forward to a good summer.”

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute health agency today recorded 8,769 new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours and 226 deaths, with a national incidence rate of 67.3 new infections per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

© – AFP, 2021

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