Residents and local businesses in a community in Germany’s most populous state that has been forced to return to strict confinement after a coronavirus outbreak at a local slaughterhouse are holding those responsible to account.
The Gütersloh district of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has more than 360,000 inhabitants, had its first full day under a reinstated coronavirus blockade after more than 1,700 employees at the Tönnies meat processing plant and slaughterhouse tested positive.
Schools and kindergartens, bars, gyms, and museums, which gradually began to reopen, were forced to close, and people are once again limited to meeting with someone else outside their home.
Local health authority officials said the measures, to be reviewed weekly, were the only hope of containing the virus, but it illustrates the anger and fury that governments around the world could face if they force liberated communities to return. to be blocked.
Meinolf Hartkemper, the owner of a gym that was forced to close again, told local journalists that he was disappointed, particularly after his business had closely followed the rules. “I am frustrated and angry,” he said. “We follow all stipulations, while this great company seems to have done nothing of the sort.”
Local politicians have tried to ease the tension. At a community meeting at the Gütersloh town hall on Tuesday night, the district chief of authority, Sven-Georg Adenauer, called the new regulations “closing light” as restaurants and cafes could remain open, although under strict conditions.
“I’m sure we can get them up in a week,” he told residents. Business leaders fear the blockade could last three months.
Some 300 police have been dispatched to Gütersloh to assist in the implementation of the blockade. The neighboring Warendorf district, which has a population of 278,000, has also re-imposed restrictions due to the outbreak.
According to German government regulations, any community with an infection level greater than 50 people per 100,000 during the past seven days must return to closure. The outbreak of the slaughterhouse, which affects a large proportion of the plant’s Romanian and Bulgarian workers, has brought the Gütersloh rate to more than 200 per 100,000 inhabitants and has helped boost the crucial national R rate of less than one about three.
The incident has also renewed fears of a second wave of the virus, especially at a time when hundreds of thousands of Germans are embarking on holidays abroad to Spain, Greece and Portugal, and has sparked a barrage of calls and emails to travel agents in the region. residents concerned about their summer vacation.
While many Güterslohers had until recently lived in the hope of being able to go on vacation, if not necessarily abroad, at least elsewhere in Germany, many states now reject them, and say they don’t want them. The island of Usedom on the Baltic coast has sent 14 tourists from the district home, while Lower Saxony has issued a “housing ban” to visitors to Gütersloh and Schleswig-Holstein announcing that they would have to undergo a two-week quarantine .
Austria has gone further: it tagged the entire state of North Rhine-Westphalia as a coronavirus hotspot and urged its citizens to stay away. Travelers from the region will not be welcome in Austria, said its chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.
Gütersloh is now conducting massive tests with Tönnies paying the bill, amid calls for its CEO, Clemens Tönnies, to be held accountable for an outbreak. factory, its canteen and workers’ accommodation. Tönnies reportedly initially resisted calls to hand over the contact details of his workers, which allegedly hindered the tracking and tracing effort. The CEO admitted mistakes and promised to change the company.
Fans of Schalke, the Gelsenkirchen football club where Tönnies is the chairman of the supervisory board, have vented their fury by hanging protest signs on the club grounds.
Armin Laschet, the head of North Rhine-Westphalia, has called on other regions of Germany not to overreact, insisting that the coronavirus tests, now offered to everyone who wants one, will ensure that Güterslohers can demonstrate they are virus free.
It has urged residents only to leave their communities “when necessary,” although authorities have admitted that they depend on the goodwill of the people.
But there is a lot of evidence to show that this is decreasing. Thousands of Gütersloh citizens queued in the sun on Wednesday at the local corona diagnostic center for free tests, which they said they hoped would allow them to travel. According to local media, three teams of medical personnel work 24 hours a day to meet demand, evaluating up to 100 people per hour.
“I wanted to go on vacation to Brandenburg,” said Rainer Bart. “We are supposed to be leaving in a few days and the children are literally sitting in their suitcases eager to leave. We hope that if we get a negative test result, we can present it to our owners so that they have no reason to reject us just because we come from Gütersloh. “