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German sport heads back behind closed doors

German sport is set to return behind closed doors next week after Chancellor Olaf Scholz provided his latest updates on the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Scholz discussed the COVID-19 situation with the heads of government of the federal states on Tuesday before announcing the latest measures to the German public yesterday evening. The federal and state governments decided on further contact restrictions in order to curb the expected spread of the more contagious Omicron variant.

As part of these measures, “major national events” such as football matches will take place without spectators from December 28, at the latest. “We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to this next wave that is beginning to pile up in front of us,” said Scholz.

The Chancellor stressed that measures introduced since the end of November are having an effect, adding that a vaccination booster campaign launched on November 18 and targeting 30 million jabs by Christmas can be achieved. Another 30 million are to be added by the end of January. “That would mean three quarters of citizens would be vaccinated three times,” said Scholz.

The announcement comes with the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga currently on their winter breaks and not due to resume play until January 7 and January 14, respectively. Commenting on the decision, the German Football League (DFL) said: “Of course, general health protection and the relief of the health systems have top priority, especially in view of the current assessments of the federal government and its experts on the possible spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“In this respect, the temporary restrictions imposed by the federal and state governments on spectators at major events are regrettable but understandable – even if, until recently, we all hoped that there would no longer be a nationwide return to games without fans in the stadiums. The DFL calls again and urgently: get vaccinated or have your vaccination refreshed as soon as possible!”

However, indoor sports are set to be impacted. Both the German Ice Hockey League (DEL) and Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) will see their games go behind closed doors.

Attendances at outdoor sporting events in Germany had been capped at 15,000 earlier this month after new restrictions were announced to combat the spread of COVID-19.

It came as Scholz’s predecessor, Angela Merkel, 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 was introduced ahead of that weekend’s round of Bundesliga football matches. Smaller stadiums with a capacity of under 30,000 were only permitted to open at 50% capacity.

The federal and state governments will meet again on January 7.

Image: Wolfgang Manousek/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size