Attendances at outdoor sporting events in Germany have been capped at 15,000 after new restrictions were announced today (Thursday) to combat the spread of COVID-19.

It comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel today announced a nationwide lockdown for unvaccinated people amid rising concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19, coupled with the low vaccination rate in the country.

The attendance cap has been introduced ahead of this weekend’s round of Bundesliga football matches. Smaller stadiums with a capacity of under 30,000 will only be permitted to open at 50% capacity.

Some states in Germany have already banned all fans from attending sporting events and today’s announcements come after the federal Government earlier this week hinted at adopting a blanket approach to controlling attendances.

Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter admitted this week that the current state of affairs was “really unsatisfactory”, with attendances across the Bundesliga varying wildly. While RB Leipzig’s match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Sunday was played in front of no fans – a first for the Bundesliga this season – 50,000 supporters were in attendance for FC Köln’s game against local rival Borussia Mönchengladbach on Saturday.

Following today’s announcement, German Football League (DFL) managing director Christian Seifert said: “It is regrettable that, due to the pandemic situation and the still too low vaccination rate in Germany, restrictions in many areas of life are once again necessary. In this situation, a differentiated, comprehensible, but above all effective policy strategy is required.

“A temporary restriction on the admission of fans to the stadiums is therefore understandable. The DFL hopes that this decision by the federal and state governments will lay the foundation for a rapid improvement in the pandemic situation. The DFL and its clubs will of course continue to support all vaccination efforts.”

Today’s announcement was anticipated by Borussia Dortmund, which yesterday cancelled 67,000 tickets for its home match against Bayern Munich on Saturday.

The decision was made in anticipation that the state government would introduce capacity restrictions, and Dortmund plans on starting a new sales process now the limits have been confirmed. Tickets for the match at Signal Iduna Park (pictured), which is once again being used as a COVID-19 vaccination centre, will go back on sale tomorrow morning at 10am local time.

While capacities at outdoor sporting events have been capped at 15,000, the limit for indoor sport is 5,000. This will affect upcoming basketball, handball and ice hockey fixtures across Germany.

Last week, it was announced that fans attending sporting events in Italy from December 6 would need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of new measures brought in to limit the spread of the virus.

Fans will be required to present a so-called Super Green Pass to prove that they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19. The rule is set to be in place until January 15, and this may be extended.

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