The loud voices in Germany that contacts should be reduced over the Christmas period and that people should stay at home if possible could hardly be overheard. Politicians, epidemiologists, doctors – they all warned of the consequences if the corona pandemic picks up again at the end of 2020.
Against this background, the current pictures from Germany are surprising. Especially in the Ore Mountains, Sauerland and Black Forest there was a rush of day tourists, some of whom did not adhere to the Corona measures.
The pictures from Saxony, the state where the incidence is by far the highest and where there are the strictest contact and exit restrictions, are particularly surprising. There, on the two Christmas holidays alone, the police on the Fichtelberg in the Erzgebirge, popular with holidaymakers, registered more than 100 violations of the Corona rules.
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Numerous people had been on the Fichtelberg without a necessary, valid reason, the police said on Sunday, according to the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR). On December 25th, 54 and on December 26th 52 people were reported for violating the country’s Corona Protection Ordinance.
According to MDR reporters, many people went without a mask and ignored minimum distances. The car parking spaces were overcrowded and not only local license plates were visible. People are not allowed to go further than 15 kilometers from home and, among other things, only when shopping or doing sports.
However, doing sport is only possible to a limited extent, as the slopes from the summit of the Fichtelberg – the highest mountain in the Ore Mountains at 1215 meters – are closed down into the valley, as in many German ski areas. Tobogganing is also not considered a sport. The police had been made aware of the situation through information from local residents, among other things. Numerous pictures in the social networks showed the sometimes dense crowd in the Corona hotspot.
There are also such pictures from Winterberg in the Sauerland. According to the Westfalenpost, thousands of day tourists were there because of the snowfall – despite Corona and the storm “Hermine”. License plates from the entire Ruhr area, the Münsterland and Düsseldorf were recognized there. Places that are more than 100 kilometers away.
Many cars had problems with the slippery road, and trucks also stood sideways: Images that were common in previous winters, but this winter are surprising due to the pandemic.
Many parking spaces were completely overcrowded, eyewitnesses reported. On the ski slopes, the lifts are all closed, crowds of people gathered without any distance and mostly without masks.
Similar images were seen around the high altitude town of Dobel in the Black Forest, but the police took action there. According to the Pforzheimer Zeitung, the officials blocked the access roads to Dobel when the crowd got too big. The sledge slopes were already full in the morning.
When the parking lots were later completely overcrowded with day tourists, the spokesman for the Pforzheim Police Headquarters made the decision in consultation with the mayor. Only residents and buses were allowed to pass the police checkpoints. Anyone who had a sled in their car had to turn back. Cars that had been there earlier also parked driveways and parked on private property.
And tourists in the snow not only caused huge crowds and traffic chaos in Germany: In Austria, however, this is mainly due to the fact that the ski areas are actually open.
However, there were sometimes so large traffic jams at the weekend that some ski areas pulled the emergency brake and blocked access. The Bodental in Carinthia, which offers winter hiking and cross-country skiing, remained closed on Sunday after the rush on Saturday, as did the toboggan meadows in Semmering around 100 kilometers southwest of Vienna. In Damüls in Vorarlberg, around 70 kilometers south of Lindau on Lake Constance, too large a crowd had to be broken up.
Quarantine is still a deterrent for most tourists
Many ski areas are open in Austria, but only for residents. There is a ten-day quarantine requirement for those arriving from abroad, which discourages most tourists. In addition, the particularly effective FFP2 masks as mouth and nose protection are mandatory for all skiers over 14 years of age who use gondolas or lifts or have to queue.
The crowd in Damüls was due to the lack of snow in neighboring areas, said Andreas Gapp, head of the Vorarlberg cable cars, on Sunday. “We have learned from this and will adapt our concepts as soon as possible.” Otherwise he drew a positive balance of the Christmas days. “People wear the FFP2 mask, keep their distance and accept the rules of the catering trade,” he said.
The police, among others in Styria, provided the people with new traffic information every hour:
In the Bodental and Semmering areas, it was “loads of vehicles parked on the roadside” that alerted the authorities. In part, the access of fire engines or ambulances was disabled, it said. Hundreds of day trippers were then on the way and the corona distance rules could no longer be guaranteed.
On Christmas Day Semmering tried in vain to limit the number of tobogganers with barriers. Both parishes closed the driveways completely on Sunday. However, the mountain railways on the Semmering-Hirschenkogel continued.
Ski guests who had booked online could use them. The cable cars have reduced their maximum number of guests to less than half due to the Corona distance rules. (Tsp, dpa)
Note: In a previous version of this text it was stated that in Saxony you can go shopping and doing sports more than 15 kilometers from home. That’s not the case.