Home » Barbenheimer-style Gatherings Blamed for Covid Rise in Germany
Europe Germany Global News Health News

Barbenheimer-style Gatherings Blamed for Covid Rise in Germany

German epidemiologists are warning of a summer wave of coronavirus infections, blaming in part mass gatherings such as the Barbenheimer double feature craze.

The government’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), says that while infections remain low compared with at the height of the pandemic, they have been on the rise for the past month.

According to the government’s Pandemic Radar, which is updated daily by the health ministry, visits to the doctor due to a Covid 19 infection are up 175% on the previous week, and there have been 2,400 cases reported to the RKI this week compared with 400 the previous week, and double the rate of a month ago.

Hospital admissions of people with coronavirus are up 50%. More than half of Germany’s monitoring stations, in particular sewage plants, have indicated a rise in viral load detected in wastewater this month.

The number of official test results shows the rate to be low, at 3 in every 100,000 people. However, the figure itself is hardly a reflection of the real rate, as so few tests are being carried out.

“It could be that we’re having a summer wave,” Timo Ulrichs an epidemiologist at the Berlin Akkon University of Human Sciences, told the news portal Spiegel, adding that the so-called “Barbenheimer effect” was capable of boosting the numbers.

Germany was among the countries where cinemagoers were encouraged to go to watch the blockbuster films Barbie and Oppenheimer as a double feature, in an effort to boost cinema attendance which has yet to recover since the pandemic. So far just under 4 million have seen Barbie, and more than 2.5 million Oppenheimer.

The idea of a Barbenheimer effect on the spread of the virus was first playfully mooted by the vaccine expert Peter Hotez of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.

Suggesting on Twitter that it might be of concern, due to the millions of people surging to cinemas and spending hours in a windowless room together, he concluded: “We’ll probably never know since no one seems to be keeping track of such things any more.”

New York has recently recorded a doubling in hospitalisations due to the EG.5 Eris variant of Omicron, which the World Health Organization last week classified as a “variant of interest”.

Hotez urged people to keep up with their boosters and wear a pink medical mask – in a nod to Barbie – if they were planning a cinema visit.

Germany’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said in reaction to rising levels elsewhere in the world, and the increase in Germany, where the XBB.1.5 variant is currently responsible for most new infections: “our early warning system is activated”.

Germans are being encouraged to get booster jabs in the autumn, if they belong to a higher-risk group, such as those over 60, and people who are overweight, suffer from a lung disease such as COPD, or work in a risky environment such as a hospital. Those who are sick are being advised to stay at home.

Source : The Guardian