New Year’s Eve in Coronavirus times: Call for fireworks ban

Too many injured
Because of the coronavirus: the coming New Year without firecrackers and rockets?

In view of the coronavirus pandemic, there shouldn’t be crowds of people like 2019/2020 at the Hamburg Landungsbrücken on the coming New Year’s Eve – but what about the private fireworks?

© Jonas Walzberg / DPA

An evergreen is celebrating its comeback: The discussion about a ban on private New Year’s Eve fireworks is underway again. The opponents of the gulle have a weighty argument this year.

The debate about a ban on private fireworks on New Year’s Eve starts earlier than usual this year. In the past few years it was primarily the fine dust pollution that led the opponents of firecrackers and rockets into the field, this year – how could it be otherwise in 2020 – first and foremost the coronavirus pandemic.

Because already in November, the hospitals in many places are groaning under the increasing number of Covid-19 patients – the usual injuries from the New Year’s fireworks would put additional strain on the clinics.

“New Year’s Eve in the corona crisis must be #stayathome!”

Among other things, the Berlin Greens now dared to make a corresponding move. Antje Kapek, the parliamentary group leader of the party co-ruling in the capital, said on Twitter that a ban on New Year’s Eve fireworks was “an important step to relieve hospitals, protect paramedics and prevent new infections”. New Year’s Eve in the corona crisis should be called “stayathome” (stay at home).

Kapek named the Netherlands as a role model. There, the government last week decided to ban fireworks for the upcoming turn of the year. This is to prevent doctors and nurses from having to take care of people who are injured by fireworks, the government said. Selling and lighting firecrackers and rockets are not permitted in the neighboring country, with the exception of small bangers or sparklers. Violations are to be punished with a fine of 100 euros and an entry in the criminal record. Last year, people in the Netherlands fired pyrotechnics worth more than ten million euros – the industry and dealers are to be compensated by the government.

Hundreds of injuries from New Year’s fireworks

In Germany, a total of around 130 million euros have been spent on the New Year’s Eve fireworks in recent years. In Berlin alone, more than 30 people had to be treated for injuries caused by pyrotechnics in the night from December 31, 2019 to January 1, 2020, according to the fire brigade, around 1300 came to hospitals across Germany, according to WDR. “In this exceptional situation, we cannot afford large groups to meet outside and then injure ourselves – we know the figures from previous years,” said Green politician Kapek of the newspaper “BZ”. “Why should we run into the overload with seeing eyes?”

Kapek announced that the possible fireworks ban will be discussed at the Senate meeting on Tuesday. However, the Greens also have to convince their coalition partners of the SPD and the Left. While the left faction has not yet positioned itself clearly, Kapek has received opposition from the ranks of the Social Democrats. “A general New Year’s Eve ban would mean that we would completely take away people’s fun. I am skeptical whether that would not be an overreaction,” said SPD domestic politician Frank Zimmermann to the “Tagesspiegel”.

The discussion about the pros and cons of the New Year’s Eve fireworks has now spilled over from the capital to other parts of the country. For example, the government factions of the CDU and FDP in the most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia spoke out in favor of people being allowed to celebrate the turn of the year with firecrackers and rockets. “For months we have been asked in politics what we want or have to cancel – Bundesliga, festivals, Saint Martin, carnival,” said the health policy spokesman for the CDU parliamentary group, Peter Preuss, of the “Rheinische Post”. “I can assure you: Nobody wants to ban the turn of the year.” The FDP parliamentary group leader Christof Rasche called a possible ban on fireworks “excessive”.

The NRW Association of Towns and Municipalities also spoke out against a general ban. “Of course we have to look very carefully in Corona times to see what is possible on New Year’s Eve,” said President Roland Schäfer of the DPA news agency. “We can get big parties out of our heads, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean we should ban the burning of fireworks nationwide.”

In a representative Yougov survey on behalf of the “Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland” almost a year ago, 57 percent of those questioned were in favor of a ban on firecrackers on New Year’s Eve in Germany for safety and environmental reasons.

According to one, at the turn of the year stern– Survey of 22 of the 81 major German cities issued an at least locally limited firefighting ban. At the time, the city administrations cited air pollution and the noise from the New Year’s fireworks as reasons.

How many municipalities will respond to the call to ban firecrackers and missiles this year is still completely unclear. But the discussion about it is open – and the argument to save the hospitals from additional patients in view of the many Covid 19 sufferers is difficult to refute.

Sources: Antje Kapek on Twitter, Berlin fire brigade, WDR, “B.Z.”, “Tagesspiegel”, “Rheinische Post”, “Editorial Network Germany”, News agencies DPA and AFP

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