German COVID-19 outbreak traced to restaurant | News | DW | 23.05.2020
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German COVID-19 outbreak traced to restaurant

At least 10 people have been infected with COVID-19 following a private party at a restaurant in rural northern Germany. Health officials say there is evidence that hygiene and distancing guidelines were not followed.

Health officials in the German state of Lower Saxony said Saturday they are investigating a COVID-19 outbreak traced to a restaurant where people allegedly failed to follow hygiene and distancing regulations. 

Authorities said at least 10 people, including the restaurant's owner, were infected with COVID-19 in the rural municipality of Moormerland in Germany's northwestern coastal region of East Frisia. None of the cases have been reported as serious. 

Read more: German restaurants reopen with pandemic measures in place 

On May 15, the "Alte Scheune" restaurant was celebrating reopening following a year of renovations. 

The restaurant's owner told the local newspaper Ostfriesen-Zeitung that he had invited around 40 people who had helped with the renovation to the restaurant, and that the occasion wasn't a party, but rather a "test run" for himself and his team before reopening to the public. 

Handshakes and no masks

However, Lower Saxony's health minister, Carola Reimann, said Saturday that the "break out of infections at the location was not due to a normal restaurant visit. Instead, a private party was apparently celebrated there."

Leer district counselor, Matthias Groote, said that "from the information we have, there are indications that coronavirus rules may have been violated on the evening of May 15."

German media NDR reported statements from guests that night citing violations like people shaking hands, not wearing masks, and disregarding minimum distancing of 2 meters (7 feet) between guests. 

Health officials said that around 70 people who have been in contact with those infected are now in quarantine, and more tests are currently being done. 

COVID-19 is 'still here' 

The owner has maintained that distancing and hygiene regulations were followed, and that people could have been infected before or after the evening of May 15. He added he has closed the restaurant, but plans reopen after his quarantine is over on June 4, and "all the tests come out negative." 

Health minister Reimann said that people need to remain "very vigilant to not jeopardize that big progress of the previous weeks," while emphasizing that COVID-19 is "still here" and people need to "take the situation seriously" and "follow distancing and hygiene measures."

Read more: Opinion — Coronavirus conspiracy theories on the rise

Lower Saxony allowed restaurants to reopen on May 11 under lower occupancy and strict hygiene and distancing guidelines. 

wmr/rc (dpa, NDR) 

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