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Health experts draw up Germany reopening plan

A paper co-authored by 20 scientists and medical experts aims to provide German venues and event organisers with a data-based path out of lockdown

By IQ on 24 Feb 2021

Leipzig’s Quarterback Immobilien Arena, where the Restart-19 test took place, is supporting the plan

Leipzig’s Quarterback Immobilien Arena, where the Restart-19 test took place, is supporting the plan

Twenty scientists, health experts and doctors in Germany have created a set of guidelines to enable the gradual return of audiences to cultural and sporting events.

In a paper released on Monday, titled Schrittweise Rückkehr von Zuschauern und Gästen: Ein integrierter Ansatz für Kultur und Sport (Gradual return of spectators and guests: An integrated return to culture and sport), specialists in infectious diseases, virology, ventilation, health economics, sports medicine, culture and law present various models for both and indoor and outdoor events to allow them to reopen safely. Each is based on a basic concept but can be expanded to gradually increase the number of guests per event.

This basic concept, described as stage one in a ‘three-stage plan’ (Drei-Stufen-Plan), is based on an indoor capacity of 25–30% (up to 40% if outdoors), with mandatory face masks and and no food or beverage sales indoors (outside, there should be no F&B sales above 1,000 visitors). There should also be social distancing, achieved by leaving many seats empty.

These rules are the same for attendees, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Beyond the basic model, there are a number of ‘special individual concepts’ depending on the venue or event, with varying hygiene, ventilation and occupancy requirements.

At 100% capacity – the so-called ‘maximum model’ – the guidelines require, among other provisions, digital contact tracing for all attendees, along with mandatory coronavirus tests before entry.

“We need a perspective that gives us hope and incentive”

The concept is supported by a score of major German venues, including Mercedes-Benz Arena/Verti Music Hall in Berlin, Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Olympiapark Munich and Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig, as well as a number of other music and sports organisations, including the the governing bodies of German football, basketball, handball and volleyball.

“This initiative cannot be rated highly enough,” said Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for culture, speaking after the launch of the paper. “We need a perspective that gives us hope and incentive so that we can get away from the appeals to persevere without any prospect of improvement.”

“As soon as it is possible to reopen” venues, “culture, sport and events must be included” in that, he added. (Some experts warn Germany is currently in the midst of a “third wave” of the coronavirus as new mutations spread.)

The head of the German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat), Olaf Zimmermann, says the authors of the plan have provided “a comprehensive concept which could enable spectators and guests to participate in cultural and sporting events under strict hygiene and infection-protection measures”.

“With their concept, the scientists, experts and cultural and sports institutions are, for the first time, presenting a cross-industry, data-based approach […] to the discussion about appropriate ways out of lockdown,” Zimmerman comments. “We want to reopen, and we want to protect the people who visit or work in our facilities from the virus. Both can work – as the concept presented today shows.”

“The scientists, experts and cultural and sports institutions are, for the first time, presenting a cross-industry, data-based approach”

The Event Management Forum, the umbrella organisation founded last year by live music group BDKV and four other events associations, also welcomes the plan – which is similar to the Manifest Restart (Restart Manifesto) it presented earlier this month – but points out that recent studies in Leipzig and Dortmund show that venues can go up to 100% capacity safely, far beyond the 25–30% on which the basic concept is based.

“From the point of view of the Event Management Forum, the concept is not yet suitable for actually enabling a ‘restart’ of event operations,” the forum says in a statement. “[I]t contains a basic model that should enable venues of all sizes to operate with 25 to 30% capacity, while outdoors with up to 40% capacity, while observing basic requirements such as social distancing, hygiene rules and personalised ticketing.”

Whereas, “in the Dortmund aerosol study,” it adds, “a capacity of 100% was considered harmless, provided that the audience in the hall wear masks.”

As for the ‘maximum model’ proposed in the plan, the Event Management Forum points out that venues could safely go to 100% capacity if attendees are tested for the virus before entry, making the other restrictions redundant. “The implementation of suitable tests can enable the utilisation of 100% [of a venue] without further measures if this ensures that only negative, non-infectious visitors are admitted to the respective venue,” the organisation adds.


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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