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New Year’s and the pandemic: Would a fireworks ban help the hospitals in Bonn and the region?

New Year’s and the pandemic : Would a fireworks ban help the hospitals in Bonn and the region?

The debate about banning fireworks has taken on new momentum because of the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus-related ban in the Netherlands is considered a model by those who support prohibiting fireworks. It is considered a way to relieve emergency services. How do cities, hospitals and fireworks manufacturers in the region feel about a New Year's Eve without fireworks?

For many people, fireworks are an integral part of New Year's Eve. Germans spend more than 130 million euros on them, and every tenth citizen of Germany thinks it’s worth it to spend 50 euros or more on fireworks for New Year’s Eve. But private fireworks displays are also controversial. Every year people are seriously injured. Environmental and animal protection associations have long been calling for a ban and the majority of Germans are in favor of a ban as well. A survey in the past year, completed by YouGov, the Institute for Public Opinion Research, showed that 57 per cent of German citizens are in favor of a fireworks ban.

With the coronavirus pandemic, the debate on this issue is now taking on new momentum. Because emergency services are very busy with Covid-19 patients, the Netherlands has banned fireworks on New Year's Eve. Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Environmental Action Germany - DUH) says Germany should follow this example. Further air pollution must be avoided, because fine dust particles in the air contribute to more serious cases of Covid-19 disease.

Fireworks manufacturers say a ban would be the end of the industry

The manufacturers of fireworks, on the other hand, warn vehemently against a ban. Thomas Schrieber is the head of Weco, a fireworks manufacturer located in Eitdorf. He also heads the Association of the Pyrotechnic Industry (VPI), and fears a ban would mean an end for the industry: "It can be assumed that a ban would lead to an irreversible and thus permanent disappearance of the entire pyrotechnic industry in Germany.” More than 3,000 people from the industry would lose their jobs.

The company in Eitorf, which employs 220 people there, continued: "Such a ban would have dramatic consequences for our company and would probably result in insolvency.” For the Eitorf region, this would mean a severe economic slump. Weco disputes that the course of disease in coronavirus patients can be affected by fireworks. The decision to do without major events is understandable, he says. Instead, the company is promoting fireworks displays only within small family circles.

The police union (GdP) is also critical of the topic. "Bans must also be controlled and enforced. From the perspective of the police union, this is hardly feasible in terms of personnel on New Year's Eve," says deputy head Jörg Radek.

Ban on fireworks: Bonn and Siegburg noncommittal in their responses

Generally speaking, without a nationwide ban, municipalities can decide for themselves whether or not to ban fireworks. Responding to an inquiry, larger cities in the Rhine-Sieg district such as Siegburg and Troisdorf said that bans were not planned so far. A city spokesman in Siegburg said it was still too early. "We have to observe how the situation with new cases and capacity levels in hospitals develops.” The City of Bonn is similarly cautious. "The city administration has not yet formed an opinion on this matter", a spokesperson said. "In due course, the crisis committee will probably make a decision on this." Generally speaking, police and emergency units receive a high number of calls on New Year's Eve. In previous years, there had been several fires in the city area due to fireworks. The fire department reported 46 deployments.

The federation of cities and municipalities of Germany recently spoke out against a general ban on fireworks and firecrackers on New Year's Eve. "Of course, in corona times we have to look very closely at what is possible on New Year's Eve," said president of the federation, Roland Schäfer. "We can forget big parties, that much is certain. But that's why we shouldn't prohibit fireworks nationwide.”

Fireworks during coronavirus pandemic: Doctors warn of increased risk of infection

Hospitals, which are the subject of the heated debate on bans, have not yet called for a ban on fireworks. Medical facilities in Bonn and Rhine-Sieg district see themselves well prepared for New Year's Eve. "Patients with Covid-19 rarely come at night on an emergency basis," says Thomas Scheck, medical director of the GFO clinics in Bonn. "At the same time, we generally have fewer patients on the wards over the holidays. From today's perspective, we therefore assume that we will have enough free beds for the coming New Year's Eve.” The intensive care unit physician is more concerned that fireworks displays usually involve people from many households, so that the risk of infection could increase locally.

"From our standpoint in emergency rooms, we would especially like to see responsible and safe handling of fireworks and moderate alcohol consumption, as this significantly reduces the risk of injury," says Hans-Peter Reuters, Medical Director of the Central Emergency Department at the Helios Clinic Siegburg. On New Year's Eve, these accidents account for ten to 15 percent of the number of patients. Firecrackers that are ignited near the hands or face play a major role - mostly due to incorrect handling, attempts at bravery and or being under the influence of alcohol. This seems to play a greater role than the firecrackers themselves: "A large proportion of patients come to us in the emergency room because of alcohol-related falls or even physical confrontations while under the influence of alcohol," says Reuters.

(Orig. text: Andreas Dyck, Sabrina Szameitat / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)