Germans seeking to defy a government ban on the domestic selling of fireworks before new year celebrations are heading in their droves across the border to Polish shops and factories.
A ban was announced this month for a second year in a row in an attempt to prevent large gatherings during the pandemic and to ease the burden on hospitals, which regularly have to treat serious injuries such as burns and lacerated limbs resulting from pyrotechnic accidents.
It is one of a range of post-Christmas measures being introduced as Germania braces for a new wave of coronavirus caused by the Omicron variant. On New Year’s Eve, private gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people who are vaccinated or recovered, excluding children under 14. Clubs and discos are not allowed to open, and restaurants can operate only under strict conditions.
At one firework factory shop in Slubice, western Poland, close to the German border, people who had travelled from across Germany reported queueing for up to three hours this week, filling the boots of cars and vans before the so-called “Silvester” celebrations, which are named after a fourth-century pope and are a key event in the German calendar.
A limit of 50kg of goods is allowed per vehicle, and extra police are in the area to carry out random checks, according to media reports.
A majority of Germans support the ban, according to a recent YouGov poll carried out for the news agency DPA. The survey found 66% were in favour of the decision while 27% said it was wrong.
The pyrotechnic industry has announced it will take legal action, calling it unfair that customers were allowed to bring fireworks in from abroad, and arguing that serious injuries were “practically impossible” if the products were used as specified in the instructions.
Many accidents are caused by people taking fireworks apart and building bigger ones with the gunpowder.
German firework producers make about 95% of their annual turnover of about €200m in the three days before the turn of the year when fireworks are usually allowed to be sold. Germany is the biggest market in Europa, equivalent to that of the US. Some manufacturers have said they believe the pandemic is being used as an excuse to squeeze the industry into bankruptcy.
Nel passato, environmental campaigners, pet lovers, doctors, the fire brigade and police have campaigned in favour of an all-out ban. The pandemic has only caused pressure to mount further.
Ingo Schubert, the head of the national association for pyrotechnics, disse: “We’re still lacking valid data to give plausibility to the claims that a significant amount of injuries during Silvester night are caused by authorised fireworks.”
He said not enough attention was paid to the role of alcohol in accidents, as confirmed by doctors who treat the injuries. He said the ban amounted to “token politics” and was in danger of backfiring at a time when politicians urgently needed to ensure that the majority of citizens back their measures to tackle the pandemic. “It is a black day for all those for whom fireworks are a much-loved Silvester custom," Egli ha detto.
The new health minister, Karl Lauterbach, a medical doctor, has campaigned in the past for a ban based on the harm he said was caused in particular to people with asthma by the fine particles emitted into the air. He has said fine particles can also cause brain inflation and dementia.
“Within a couple of hours of these chaotic, DIY new year celebrations you can inhale the same amount of fine particles you’d otherwise be exposed to over months,” he told the Guardian in a 2018 colloquio. “I cannot enjoy being outside when I know how exorbitant the contamination is on this particular night.”
His message this year is even more clearly focused, but this time relates solely to the pandemic emergency.
Despite the pressure it faces, the industry in Germany is hoping for an upswing next year. quando cercheremo di tradurre il mondo e non avrà senso per loro, the amount of unsold fireworks – about 30,000 tons of explosives – are mounting. They are being stored in about 30 high-security locations around the country.