Carnival season may have to be cancelled, German health minister says

Carnival season may have to be cancelled, German health minister says

In a year when everything’s been turned upside down, it should come as no surprise that even the “crazy days” won’t happen as usual. But German Health Minister Jens Spahn has sparked a row by saying he “cannot imagine” carnival taking place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Spahn “cannot imagine” carnival season taking place this year

Germany’s carnival season - which is primarily celebrated in February and March but kicks off every year on November 11 - is expected to be cancelled over fears that the mass, alcohol-fuelled gatherings could contribute to the spread of coronavirus. 

Jens Spahn sparked a heated debate this week when he hinted that carnival celebrations would have to be cancelled this year. “I was a carnival prince myself as a child and come from a carnival stronghold,” he told the Rheinische Post newspaper. “So I know how important carnival is for many millions of Germans. But I simply cannot imagine carnival this winter in the middle of a pandemic. It’s a shame, but it’s true.” 

His comments received support from the head of the Bundestag’s health committee, Erwin Rüddel, who said that a ban made sense from a public health perspective. “We have enough evidence that physical distancing and alcohol are not compatible,” he said. 

Certainly, the first major spike of coronavirus cases in March, when Germany was recording more than 6.000 new infections every day, was largely attributed to skiers returning from high-risk countries like Austria and Italy and attending carnival celebrations. This week, Spahn said that events and gatherings are still one of the greatest sources of danger when it comes to the spread of coronavirus in Germany. 

Suggestion receives support from other German leaders

SPD boss Norbert Walter-Borjans was also sceptical about carnival during corona times: “What defines carnival… will not work,” he said. “Carnival as it is, is not possible with a 1,5 metre distance and protective mask.” 

Christoph Kuckelkorn, the president of the Cologne carnival festival committee, told local media that it was “reasonable” to suggest that carnival could not go ahead in its current form. “Celebrating at any price cannot be our goal right now,” he said. 

But he questioned whether that meant the entire thing had to be ditched. While street carnivals and formal dances certainly aren’t on the cards, he suggested that some events could still be held with social distancing in place - and perhaps a limit on alcohol consumption. 

He said that in mid-September the state health ministry plans to evaluate the hygiene concepts submitted by carnival planners and give feedback, and then it will become clear how carnival can proceed on November 11. “After November 11 we’ll know the effects, we’ll know how it worked, and that’s the experience we need for the season.”



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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