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Berlin’s European Film Market is going online-only for the second year in a row amid concerns over the rapid spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The Berlin Film Festival, however, is still hoping to hold an in-person event next month, from Feb. 10-20, should COVID regulations allow it.
COVID case numbers have been rising steadily in Germany, driven by omicron, though they have yet to spike dramatically as they have elsewhere in Europe. National disease control center the Robert Koch Institute on Friday recorded 56,000 new COVID-19 infections nationwide and a rising infection rate, with more than 300 active cases per 100,000 inhabitants. COVID-19 infection rates are at or near record levels in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, all of which have been designated “high-risk” areas by the Berlin government. Most of the world, in fact, has been put in the “high-risk” column, including the United States, Japan, Australia and South Korea. Travelers from those regions who are not vaccinated or can show they have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection, have to spend 10 days in quarantine upon arrival in Germany, with a possible release after five days with a negative COVID test.
“I doubt any of the Americans are coming over [to Berlin],” one European sales exec told THR by email. “I am flying to LA tomorrow and it is hard enough to get anyone to meet me outdoors in LA let alone getting them to travel to Berlin!”
Without American or Asian buyers — most major Chinese, Japanese and Korean companies had already said they would be skipping Berlin this year — the 2022 EFM was looking, at best, to be a “very watered down” market similar to last year’s Cannes, which attracted mainly European buyers “but without any U.S. presence.”
The Berlin Film Festival told THR it was “closely monitoring the development of the pandemic” and that the “safety of our guests, public and our teams remains our first priority.” If infection rates keep rising, Berlin said it may need to adjust its hygienic measures —for example, by introducing capacity restrictions in festival cinemas — to allow an in-person festival to take place, safely, between Feb. 10-20.
“The festival is in close consultation with the Berlin state senate and the [German culture ministry], who so far continue to support our planning for an in-person festival,” a spokesperson told THR, adding that Berlin has “to remain flexible and adapt to any changes” bought in by the state or federal governments.
On Friday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, together with the governors of Germany’s 16 states, announced further measures to stem the spread of omicron. The new regulations will shut down clubs and discos across the country but will not add new restrictions for cinemas, although existing rules, requiring visitors to show proof of vaccination or recent recovery from a COVID-19 infection, will remain in place.
Etan Vlessing and Alex Ritman contributed to this report.
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