50,000 carnival fans Debate about Covid risk at Cologne Carnival celebrations

Cologne · Scores of costumed people close together - the pictures from the start of Carnival in Cologne have triggered a heated debate in view of high incidences of Covid. Opinions differ widely.

 Cologne Carnival fans party with the 2G rule in place, pictured here at Zülpicher Platz.

Cologne Carnival fans party with the 2G rule in place, pictured here at Zülpicher Platz.

Foto: dpa/Oliver Berg

Following the 11.11 Carnival celebrations in Cologne, a debate has flared up about the associated risk of infection. In particular, pictures and videos of the densely populated hotspot Zülpicher Strasse have led to critical comments on social networks. People are saying it is irresponsible to party so close together despite the high incidence of coronavirus. The chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, told broadcaster RTL that he was "horrified" by the images from Carnival. His prediction: "We will pay bitterly for this in one or two weeks."

Cologne's mayor, Henriette Reker (no party affiliation), on the other hand, defended the celebrations, saying that only vaccinated and recovered people had been admitted. NRW Health Minister Karl Laumann (CDU) also made clear on Friday: "We don't want to ban Carnival." The difference from last year, he said, was that 85 percent of people over 18 were vaccinated.

The city of Cologne pointed out that throughout Thursday, a total of an estimated 50,000 people had gathered in the cordoned-off zones of the Old Town and the Zülpicher Strasse celebration area. This included the outdoor areas and the gastronomy in the zones, a spokesman for the city said. "This is a Rheinenergiestadion," he explained, referring to the capacity of Cologne's soccer stadium. "Rheinenergiestadion is 2G (vaccinated or recovered), and we also had 2G.”

Cologne Carnival President Christoph Kuckelkorn offered a positive assessment. "For the people of Cologne, Carnival is firmly a part of life and the need for it was great," he said. "That's why we have to organize a day like 11.11 as well as possible, because otherwise there is a risk of escalation. I think we largely succeeded in doing that.”

Cologne restaurateur Tobias Mintert, on the other hand, criticized on Facebook that the city had not had a clear concept. The test capacities in Cologne should have been ramped up once again. "On 10.11. and 11.11. offer tests for all," suggested Mintert. "Whether vaccinated or recovered doesn't matter there. You could have put a plastic wrist band on people who got a negative test result. That wristband would have allowed access to all bars and significantly reduced the risk.”

(Orig. text: dpa / Translation: ck)

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