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Christmas markets fear the epidemic will spoil the party again

Gingerbread, chestnuts, mulled wine are ready to flood German Christmas markets but the holiday season again seems compromised by the rise in Covid-19 cases in the country, to the dismay of traders. On Dresden’s Striezelmarkt, Germany’s oldest Christmas market, there is total uncertainty five days from opening to the public after a blank year in 2020 due to the event’s cancellation.

“I can’t describe what we’re going through right now,” says Karin Hantsche, who has sold traditional gingerbread there for 32 years. “We don’t sleep at night, we are so nervous and tense.” For his company, which achieves 50% of its turnover during the Christmas period, the closure of the Dresden market would be a disaster. “Not everyone will survive this, and concerning me, it is not sure”, fears the shopkeeper.

A national incidence rate of 319

The city of Dresden is due to review the situation on November 25. The German government and the leaders of the 16 regional states are meeting on Thursday to discuss a national response plan. For its part, Munich has already announced the cancellation of its Christmas market, one of the largest in the country, while the number of new cases has soared in Bavaria.

Nationwide, the incidence rate climbed this Wednesday to 319, a new record for the tenth consecutive day. Chancellor Angela Merkel called the situation “dramatic”. “The fourth wave is hitting our country hard,” she said during a speech to the Association of German Cities. “The number of new daily infections is higher than ever and the number of daily deaths is also frightening.”

In the eastern region of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, the incidence reached the alarming level of 742. Not enough to reassure Karin Hantsche and the other exhibitors. Other cities are trying to adapt, reorganizing their Christmas market: in Leipzig, alcohol will be banned, while in Nuremberg, the market will be reduced and spread over several sites. But at the Striezelmarkt, which has no perimeter fence or entrance control, those rules would be impossible to enforce.


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