EXCLUSIVE: The Berlin Film Festival, which got underway on Thursday evening, has recorded more than 60 positive Covid results from its testing procedures, organizers have confirmed to us.
A festival spokesperson said: “Since the beginning of the festival we have only detected eight cases of positive tests among the film teams. The Berlinale’s test buses, available for both accredited and audience, did approximately 2,700 tests and had only 54 positive tests.”
The festival continued: “In order to stop possible chains of infections, we are evaluating every case and situation thoroughly, tracking all contacts and identifying possible risk situations. We are still in pandemic times and obviously positive tests are still a reality in our daily lives. It is good to hear that the figures of positive tests are really low. With 2% of positive tests the figures are less than the average percentage of positive tests around Berlin.”
While the 2% figure is reassuring, some may be alarmed by the high overall number of positive cases and the potential for spreading.
Germany is currently experiencing a peak in the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The country registered 151,000 cases yesterday (a five day low) and 122 deaths. There are currently 3.4M active cases in the country but only 0.1 percent of those people are in a serious or critical condition.
By comparison, Cannes claimed last June that it was recording an average of three positive Covid results per day and doing up to 3,000 tests per day. The Venice Film Festival, which took place last September, carried out 4,500 total Covid tests in 11 days, returning only three positive results, organizers told us.
However, it’s also important to note that the Covid context and testing regimes were different in each country and at each event.
Berlin organizers have implemented a string of Covid safety measures including 50% cinema occupancy and daily testing. Accredited guests must be vaccinated. The situation has meant fewer guests at the festival with red carpets sparse and the festival center itself much quieter.
While many festival regulars are happy to be back in the mix at a major film event, the decision to plough on was been with consternation by some quarters of the media.
Some actors have stayed away on purpose. German actress Hanna Schygulla, who has a supporting role in festival opener Peter Von Kant, told us on Friday: “Omicron is at its peak in Berlin and I am a person at risk. I‘d be paranoid about getting infected and therefore would not enjoy being there. I am well now and would rather stay like that.” The film’s co-star, Isabelle Adjani, was unable to travel from Paris due to being a Covid close contact.