How social gatherings were rocket fuel for coronavirus

How social gatherings were rocket fuel for coronavirus

The Guardian reports:

On 15 February, a merry crowd wearing clown wigs and jester hats gathered in the town hall of Gangelt, a small western German municipality nestled by the Dutch border, to ring in the peak of the carnival season.

Beer and wine flowed aplenty as approximately 350 adults in fancy dress locked arms on long wooden benches and swayed to the rhythm of music provided by a live band.

During an interval in the programme, guests got up to mingle with friends and relatives at other tables, greeting each other as Rhineland tradition commands, with a Bützchen, or peck on the cheek.

A carnival committee of 11 men in red-and-white uniforms compered the four-hour event and gave speeches on topical issues. Covid-19, the virus that had been detected on German soil for the first time two weeks earlier, was not among them.

Yet the coronavirus is the single reason why the carnival session in Gangelt is now drawing close attention from scientists from around the world: seven people who walked out of the event later tested positive for the virus. A 47-year-old man who performed in the “male ballet” at the Gangelt carnival was the first person in Germany admitted to intensive care with the infection.

Gangelt is in the Heinsberg district, which is home to 42,000 people and has since had 1,442 infections and 43 fatalities, more than any other administrative district in the country. The national media has started to refer to it as “Germany’s Wuhan”.

A hundred days after a Chinese government website announced the discovery of a “pneumonia of unknown cause”, it has become clearer that the dynamics behind the virus’s rapid expansion across the globe has relied heavily on such “cluster effects”. [Continue reading…]

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