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"They acted as if Corona didn't exist": An interview with the angry Lord Mayor of Hamm

2020-09-22T13:59:00.166Z

The city of Hamm had Corona under control - until the infections exploded after a wedding celebration. Thomas Hunsteger-Petermann is now one of the first German politicians to face the second wave.



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Wedding celebration (symbol image)

Photo: Ronnie Kaufman / Getty Images

It seldom happens that German mayors give angry speeches on Instagram.

But Thomas Hunsteger-Petermann (CDU), mayor of the city of Hamm for over 20 years, could no longer help himself: In a four-minute video, he addressed the residents of his city with clear words on Monday.

He was "extremely upset" about the situation, says Hunsteger-Petermann in the video.

The problem: Corona infections have exploded in the North Rhine-Westphalian city since the beginning of the week.

Now, as one of the first politicians in Germany, Hunsteger-Petermann has to decide how to react correctly when the second wave comes.

The case also shows what threats communities across Germany if the number of infected people continues to rise.

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Thomas Hunsteger-Petermann, Lord Mayor of Hamm

Photo: Thorsten Huebner

SPIEGEL:

Mr. Hunsteger-Petermann, you are obviously very angry.

Why?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

Last week we had the corona situation in our city under control, there were 19 infected per 180,000 inhabitants.

In the meantime, our RKI factor has risen to 79.8, which is well above the limit of 50. We have 151 infected people and it could be significantly more once we have checked all suspected cases.

And all because of a single family celebration.

Of course I am angry.

SPIEGEL:

Is it only a family celebration that is to blame for the skyrocketing number of cases?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

We can attribute almost all infections to it.

The worst thing is that the said celebration took place three weeks ago.

That makes tracking incredibly difficult.

We are currently trying to understand all chains of infection.

However, there are now second-generation infections.

SPIEGEL:

What kind of celebration was that?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

A wedding on a grand scale.

It is quite obvious what went wrong: The starting point was probably a hen party, where people danced very closely and also shed tears.

Then there was the actual wedding celebration with several hundred guests, at which the rules of distance and hygiene were not adhered to either.

This made corona transmissions possible in large numbers.

SPIEGEL:

At the moment, experts are warning of a second wave.

In Spain, for example, the numbers are already rising rapidly.

What are the specific consequences of the infection in your city?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

Schools are a good example.

So far, we have had to quarantine 650 teachers and students alone.

Originally four children were infected.

In addition, everyone in schools has to wear masks again.

SPIEGEL:

What other measures have you taken to contain the infection rate?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

There are a number of restrictions, in some areas we are back to the same level as at the beginning of the pandemic.

From now on, private celebrations from 25 people must be registered, from 50 guests a permit is required.

There must also be a hygiene concept and someone responsible on site.

Only groups of up to five people are allowed in public spaces, the "gourmet festival" and Sunday shopping have already been canceled.

SPIEGEL:

That sounds like massive interference in the everyday life of citizens.

Hunsteger-Petermann:

We are currently doing everything we can to prevent a general lockdown.

It's a balancing act: on the one hand, the measures must be effective, on the other hand, life should go on as normally as possible.

In addition, the population must be able to understand why we are taking which measures.

Because a handful of celebrants have put aside all decency, distance and also their masks, 180,000 people are now suffering from it.

They acted as if Corona didn't exist.

That must not be.

SPIEGEL:

How is the increase changing your personal everyday life?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

Actually, I am currently in the election campaign, but that is now canceled.

I've canceled all appointments for this week.

I am challenged as a crisis manager from morning to evening.

That is a great psychological and physical burden, you can reach your limits.

SPIEGEL:

How did Hamm get through the Corona crisis so far?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

We had two major outbreaks, once right at the beginning of the pandemic, but we quickly got the situation under control.

Another increase in the numbers came from the incidents at the Tönnies slaughterhouse, but at that time we stayed below the limit.

At last we had single-digit infection numbers;

I was really satisfied.

The citizens' responsibility had paid off

.

SPIEGEL:

What would you recommend to other cities and towns?

Hunsteger-Petermann:

I would advise everyone to exercise more control over large, private celebrations.

Everything else worked fine for us, but at private parties we didn't even know where they were taking place.

These controls are not about the silver wedding anniversary, which is celebrated on a small scale.

But just about degenerate, large wedding celebrations or birthdays.

Such events are just not up to date at the moment.

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Source: spiegel

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