Berlin Christmas market opens while COVID forces others to stay closed

A Christmas market in Berlin opened on Monday — one of a few that will do so as the country faces the fourth wave of COVID-19.

Christmas markets in 2020 were cancelled amid the pandemic, and some of the larger ones will remain closed this year as well for the same reason.

But in Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt square, they will try to keep the Christmas magic alive.

“We are of course happy that we can have a Christmas market this year, after the pause last year. And we are really happy that the exhibitors have come and that they are not afraid that something will happen here,” says Helmut Russ, head of ‘Christmas magic’ market on Gendarmenmarkt.

While death rates are lower than they were during previous virus waves, the number of deaths and hospitalisations has been on the rise in Germany as cases surge.

At the entrance to the Christmas market, vaccine passes are scanned and identification cards are cross-checked by staff.

Only people who are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 — the so-called 2G rule — are allowed in.

“We decided on the 2G rule voluntarily about a month ago because we thought that it would be the best solution to make sure that people came and felt safe,” says Russ.

The local government in Berlin will meet on Tuesday to decide on possible new restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. They could decide to close the markets as other German states have done.

Another option is to introduce a so-called 2G plus rule, with entry only for the vaccinated and the recovered that also have a negative test result.

Russ hopes that the market will be able to stay open with the current restrictions.

“I think we have constructed the market well. We have made some changes to get even more space and the city of Berlin helped us with that so that we could use more space,” he says.

“We have large and wide entrances so that we can carry out the controls and people can move freely. And now when I look around, you can see that people are happy to be at a Christmas market again:”

The Christmas magic market in Berlin opened on November 22 and is supposed to run until New Year’s Eve.