Bonn Illegible, inaccurate, completely wrong: contact recording in restaurants and bars was a flop. Now it is being dropped, together with the capacity limits in theatres and cinemas. What does that mean for going out safely in Bonn?
New rules for going out under coronavirus conditions have been in effect for about a week. On the one hand, the updated NRW Corona Protection Ordinance prescribes the 3G rule (vaccinated, recovered, tested) for indoor areas. On the other hand, there are no longer occupancy limits for venues such as theatres and cinemas and no requirement to collect contact information. How safe is it now to enjoy yourself in a restaurant, cinema or theatre?
Visits to restaurants for months have involved leaving your name, address and phone number, either via the Luca app on a smartphone or with pen and paper. However, in the view of the Bonn Health Department, the measure was not very successful. "Contact tracing via the guest lists of restaurateurs was only used in exceptional cases," reports deputy city spokesman Marc Hoffmann. Often, time information was inaccurate or was absent altogether, some entries were illegible, and others were simply wrong. "This type of tracking involved a high expenditure of time in relation to a low benefit," says Hoffmann.
The Bonn Public Health Department has no documented case of infection from bars
The public health department does not know of any documented cases of infection from bars or restaurants without additional private contacts being involved. It is likely that such infections occur; however, if standard hygiene measures are followed, the agency believes that the risk is relatively low, given the increasing rate of vaccination. "If several people go out together, contact tracing is done through individual investigative work," Hoffmann said. The coronavirus warning app. can also help, he added.
The NRW Ministry of Health justifies the abolition of compulsory registration by the greater protective effect of the 3G rule. Moreover, because increasingly more people are vaccinated, contact tracing should be concentrated on vulnerable persons, i.e., the unvaccinated. "Therefore, the survey of infected persons is of particular importance," explains Heiko Haffmans from the ministry's press office. "Gastronomy data and general participation data of large events does not mean that these close contacts can be better identified." Therefore, "the effort for the offices and the data collections relevant under data protection law" is no longer justifiable.
Bonn restaurateurs have reacted calmly. "Keeping the guest lists meant paperwork in the beginning. Because we also offered a digital system in parallel, the whole thing was not a significant additional burden," said Rodney Ranz from Gasthaus Elefant on Sternstraße. He also says that guest frequency has not changed noticeably either as a result of the introduction or the abolition of the rule. This is also the experience of Ina Faber from "Schumann's" on Weberstraße: "It was not much more effort, even though we worked with paper forms," she said. There were no inquiries from the health department at either "Elefant" or "Schumann's." Michael Schlößer, hotelier and chairman of the Bonn Dehoga district group, also knows of only a few cases of data being requested.
No more contact data for major events
Contact data is also no longer requested for major events, such as the Panama Festival, which is scheduled to take place in the Rheinaue on September 10 and 11 with 5,000 visitors per day. "It will be a normal festival without face coverings and without preassigned seating. In addition, dancing will be allowed," which the organisers are pleased about. The only restriction is that every visitor will need proof of a negative PCR test, which is not older than 48 hours. Those who have been fully vaccinated and those who have recovered will be exempt from the test requirement.
Bonn organisers have different approaches to the dropping of occupancy limits. The general director of the opera and theatre, Bernhard Helmich, has announced that all seats will be sold. At the Beethovenfest, on the other hand, the previous concert schedule will remain in place for organisational reasons. "We have cancelled contact tracking and removed the requirement to wear a face covering in seats, and we are retaining our hygiene concept, including the checkerboard pattern of the seating plans," explains Michael Gassmann, the commercial director.
The 3G rule and spacing in cinemas
Michael Weidemann from the "Stern" cinema allows guests to only take off their face coverings if the minimum distance is guaranteed. "For us, with 530 seats, this still means that we distribute them in a checkerboard pattern throughout the auditorium," said Weidemann. The 3G rule, which applies to people over the age of 16 as in all cinemas, is strictly controlled, he added. "People from the same household are allowed to sit close to each other," he said.
Colleagues at "Woki" are also convinced "that cinemas are safe places," as managing director Tobias Kraemer put it. " Recently, we could only offer about one-third of the seats due to the checkerboard requirement for occupancy. A cost-covering operation has not been feasible," he said. Furthermore, one seat would be left free next to each group of visitors, so that sufficient free space would remain in all directions, due to the large row spacing. Kraemer said that "full occupancy is not planned": Instead, the Woki relies on standardised and tested ventilation systems that provide 30 cubic metres of fresh air per visitor per hour. Kraemer said: "Cinemas are better equipped in this respect than local transport, supermarkets or even offices, which the TU Berlin has confirmed in a study." According to the press office, the city administration "does not yet have any information on the probability of transmission in Bonn cinemas."
The state government points to the high protective effect of the 3G rule. "The background for the abolition of maximum numbers of people even at small events was that with the new regulations, as far as possible, no specifications are made for vaccinated and convalescent people," explained ministry spokesman Haffmanns. "However, this would be the case with general capacity restrictions for all events."
(Original text: Rüdiger Franz and Andreas Baumann; translation John Chandler)