It all started so far away: In December, reports of a spreading virus in the Chinese province of Hubei – more than 8000 kilometers away from Germany – appeared for the first time. But now the Corona virus has long since reached Lichtenfels, and in the countries to which the city of Lichtenfels has been twinned for many years, things don’t look any better.
Italy hit the pandemic hardest in the world. The number of infected rises by thousands every day. In terms of deaths, the country is even ahead of China. Hundreds of people die every day as a result of the virus, because intensive care units are completely overloaded, patients with a higher life expectancy are given preference.
Northern Italy hit particularly hard. The pictures of Bergamo, where military vehicles had to be used to transport the many dead to surrounding crematoria, went around the world. But no part of the country was spared: Lichtenfels’ twin town Ariccia is located at the gates of Rome, where the number of infected people is naturally high due to the size of the Italian capital alone.
Monika Faber is the chairwoman of the Lichtenfels twinning committee and keeps in touch with the twin towns: "It’s actually the same here as it is with us. Especially in Ariccia people are very tense because of the serious incidents in the north of the country." The fear of infection is great, especially among the older population: "At the same time, there are many younger people who do not obey the commandments." Those who live together as an extended family with several generations have an advantage: "The family takes care of everything."
French still hope
In France, the number of people infected is lower than in Germany, but the number of fatalities is many times higher. Here, too, doctors have to decide again and again who needs help more urgently due to lack of space and equipment shortages.
In the center of the country lies Cournon-d’Auvergne, which has been twinned with Lichtenfels since 1992. "The people there are still hoping that the virus will not spread to them in such an extreme way", says Faber. The "Grand Est" region is particularly affected, along with Paris at the border to Germany, which consists of the former departments Lorraine, Champagne-Ardenne and Alsace.
In Great Britain – despite the curfew that has been imposed in the meantime – conditions like those in Italy are feared soon, because even fewer intensive care beds are available in relation to the number of inhabitants. Some English people had started fleeing trips to Scotland, especially to the sparsely populated Highlands in the north, about a week ago, according to media reports. Prestwick, the Scottish twin town of Lichtenfels, is located on the southwest coast of the country in the county of Ayrshire. From there a few days ago a message was received by the mayor of Lichtenfels, Andreas Hugerich (SPD). "We must stand together. Greetings and good health, wished Provost Helen Moonie. Government reports 240 Corona cases in Ayrshire so far.
USA records most cases
In the U.S., President Donald Trump extended the current behavioral guidelines until the end of April, deviating from his plan to return to normality after Easter. The number of infected people is rising rapidly, particularly in large cities – especially New York City – and in densely populated states.
In the state of Ohio, where with Vandalia the fourth twin town of Lichtenfels is located, 1600 cases were reported on Monday, according to the New York Times. Over the course of the week, over 1000 more were added (see box). The student exchange of four U.S. and four Lichtenfels students, including participation in classes and vacations spent together, was moved from Easter to the summer vacations. "It is a matter of protecting ourselves and also our partners", said, says Faber. Also the journey to Ariccia planned for Pentecost is cancelled.