The German government on Wednesday unveiled a €2.5 billion ($3 billion) fund to kick-start the country's pandemic-hit cultural sector.
The fund will provide insurance in cases where a spike in coronavirus infections forces events to be canceled or postponed. It will also supplement event ticket sales if audience numbers have to be capped to meet social distancing rules.
Finance Minister Olaf Scholz told a press conference in Berlin that the fund's aim was to "literally bring the diverse cultural landscape in Germany back to life."
"It's about giving people the courage to make plans," he said.
How will the fund work?
Organizers of concerts, theater shows, readings, movie screenings, comedy festivals, opera and variety performances will be eligible to receive payments from the fund.
Financial assistance will kick in from July for events registered with up to 500 people. Aid for events with up to 2,000 people is set to follow in August.
Insurance covering the cancellation of larger events will apply from September.
The aid package comes on top of existing government assistance for businesses and artists hit by pandemic-linked closures.
How has COVID hit the cultural sector?
Shutdowns imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus have taken a heavy toll on Germany's cultural scene. Theaters, cinemas and concert halls were among the first venues to be closed down at the start of the pandemic.
Culture Commisioner Monika Grütters said the new fund was recognition of "the burden placed on the cultural sector during the corona crisis, but also a recognition of the sector's importance."
"Many of us have missed the shared experience of culture," Grütters said.
The German Culture Council hailed the fund as a way to "reduce the financial risks" of planning events with large audiences.
"The doors to culture must reopen as soon as possible," council head Olaf Zimmermann said. "This will help us do that."
What is the current situation in Germany?
The rate of infection in Germany has fallen significantly in recent weeks as the vaccination campaign picks up pace. Nationwide lockdown measures are gradually being lifted
as a result.
On Wednesday, the seven-day incidence rate dropped below 50 new cases per 100,000 people for the first time since October. The Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases put the figure at 46.8, although officials stressed this was partly due to a bank holiday on Monday that reduced the number of cases recorded.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said Germans could look forward to a more carefree summer if the numbers continued to fall.
"One goal is clear: as many vaccinations as possible, as few infections as possible, until the end of June. Then it will be a really good summer," Spahn told broadcaster RTL.
About 40% of the population of around 83 million people have received at least one dose and about 14% are fully vaccinated.
nm/aw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)