Covid: are Christmas markets dangerous amidst a pandemic?

Published by Cécile D. · Photos by My B. · Published on 6 December 2021 at 15h19
Are Christmas markets Covid-19 clusters? As the fifth wave is hitting France hard, some doctors warn the people against these places of massive gathering.

Do Christmas markets jeopardize the Holidays? The government has reconsidered their position: this past November 25, Olivier Véran instated new health measures to face the fifth epidemic wave. The Health Minister announced health pass is now compulsory to access Christmas markets and facemask-wearing was once again compulsory outdoor, in places open to the public – such as markets.

These seasonal fairs attract a lot of people, especially in cities famous for their Holiday entertainments. Could the government eventually ban Christmas markets as they are found too dangerous amidst the pandemic?

Despite the health protocols instated, the French struggle complying with health guidelines in places attracting crowds.

Famous for its Christmas market, Strasbourg is called out despite the guidelines reminded by the Bas-Rhin prefect, Josiane Chevalier. “From a medical point of you, what I can [is that] when one sees videos spreading on social networks, one can see social distancing is not complied with, people do not wear a mask, even outside the moments they eat”, Strasbourg University Hospitals Medical Commission Chairman Emmanuel Andres told AFP.

Should these markets be closed to prevent clusters a few weeks before Christmas? Andres considers this question is “outstandingly political” at the moment.

After two difficult years because of the pandemic, storekeepers cannot consider markets to be cancelled. On BFMTV, Les Vitrines de Strasbourg storekeepers’ association director general Pierre Bardet admits there have been “misdemeanors” but he insists on the importance of keeping these markets up.

Extreme measures have been instated this Friday morning. Stands are wider, alleys have been doubled up, and now the health pass is compulsory to access the Christmas market. In the streets, facemask-wearing is absolutely needed. It would be an economic catastrophe if we were to close this Christmas market. Everyone needs to collectively act to save it and keep people safe”, he says.

The epidemic wave and the outbreak of the omicron variant have many experts worried, but the situation is not as desperate as it seems. “There is no need to panic. In comparison with last year, we have more meaningful weapons, like vaccination. We have considerable data, although an effort about the booster shot is needed. We must convince non-vaccinated people because they are the biggest part of people in resuscitation services: 80% of our patients are not vaccinated”, explains Jean-Louis Teboul, head of the intensive-resuscitation medical unit at the Bicêtre hospital (Val-de-Marne).

With vaccination, the booster shot and health guidelines, we have the proper weapons”, the doctor claims.

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