The SPIEL'21 in Essen could take place, at least the current Corona situation gives hope - if only vaguely for the time being. At least something like optimism can be felt at the organizing Friedhelm Merz Verlag: The good news was recently announced on Facebook about the adjustment of the North Rhine-Westphalian Corona Protection Ordinance, according to which the fair would be possible with restrictions with an incidence of less than 50. 

If the particularly optimistic fans have their way, the international game days will have to take place from October 14th to 21st in the Essen exhibition halls - there's no getting around it. For a long time, however, it did not look as if a trade fair could be held outside of the virtual space. In November of last year, the organizing company Friedhelm Merz Verlag announced that the planning for SPIEL '21 in Essen would be seamlessly connected to the end of the vacation. In autumn, the second corona wave hit the Federal Republic with force; no one knew then that the third wave would take on far more dramatic proportions. In the meantime the situation has calmed down a bit, the third wave is considered broken - the numbers of intensive care patients also support this. The federal and state governments are working on a schedule that, in addition to a further vaccination turbo - company doctors will soon be involved - also provides for relaxation.

NRW step-by-step plan holds out the prospect of easing

Because Spiel'21 is to take place in Essen, the corona regulations of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia currently apply in connection with the pandemic events in Essen. How useful it may be to use the corona situation in a city as a basis for decision-making for or against holding a trade fair with possibly an international audience is not discussed at this point - these are the rules. On May 15, the new Corona Protection Ordinance of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia will come into force, which will then contain those prospective regulations that could have an effect in favor of SPIEL'21. Everything still depends on the incidence. In Essen it is currently below 100, so Click & Meet is again possible there. That regulates the federal emergency brake. Whether further loosening can be used depends on the incidence development: the situation has to be stable, that is defined by a period of five days with a corresponding incidence: Loosening takes place in two steps for the range 100 to 50 and below 50. Only the latter step would also enable trade fair events to be held.

In any case, Friedhelm Merz Verlag is in the starting blocks. On Facebook they said: "For everyone who hasn't really noticed yet: Yes, we are planning a SPIEL '21 in the Essen exhibition halls and are happy that almost everyone will probably be vaccinated by October. And of course we are incredibly looking forward to welcoming you after such a long time. Stay healthy and hold on a little longer!”

If the incidence remains above 50, the on-site fair will not be able to take place. How plannable is that? Organizers now have to decide for themselves. What happens in one, two or five weeks with regard to the pandemic is initially irrelevant for SPIEL'21 in Essen. After all, the incidence should have fallen below the critical limit by the beginning of October at the latest in order for the game days to take place. There are hurdles: Summer time could bring people together in a more uncontrolled manner and thus have a negative impact on the infection process; first voices are already warning of a fourth wave. As a reminder: The number of infections shot up in autumn 2020. At that time, however, there were no vaccinations.

The cards are being reshuffled - the corona situation is currently easing significantly. Photo: Volkmann

The cards are being reshuffled - the corona situation is currently easing significantly. Photo: Volkmann

Seeing the vaccination gives hope, around 37 million people have already received an initial vaccination. Around ten percent of the population are fully vaccinated. Provided that the supply of vaccine does not cease, a further increase in vaccination coverage can be assumed. The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians recently calculated in a model that every adult in North Rhine-Westphalia could have been offered a vaccination by the summer at the latest. Children are not included, and neither are those who do not want to be vaccinated in the first place. This is the problem that is currently being struggled with in the USA: around 30 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, but for so-called herd immunity it would have to be around 70 to 80 percent. The Robert Koch Institute had adjusted the assessment upwards due to the variants; previously 60 percent was sufficient. Even the USA is far from these values ​​and currently seems to have to deal with people unwilling to vaccinate. Trump supporters in particular are accused of adversely affecting Biden's vaccination prognosis. It is true that such politically controlled vaccination behavior is probably not a major problem here - yes, there are vaccination opponents, but the willingness is largely there - SPIEL'21 could, however, have an international focus.

Overall, the situation in Germany with regard to herd protection could ease in the foreseeable future: around the beginning of July, the Robert Koch Institute for herd immunity - defined by complete vaccination protection and immunity after an illness has gone through -. That is well before October and could represent a neuralgic planning point for the Friedhelm Merz Verlag from the organizer's point of view. At least there seems to be interest on the part of the exhibitors. At the end of March, the publisher announced via Facebook: "Today we were asked how we are doing... Yes, we're still alive. And yes, we are busy planning for SPIEL '21. There is still a long way to go before the registration deadline, but there are already a large number of bookings from exhibitors. That spurs you on. Feel pressed and hugged. We hope to see you again this year.”

The cards are currently being reshuffled for SPIEL'21, which then - at least according to the current legal situation - would not take place without restrictions. On the one hand, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia imposes hygiene requirements in whatever form. On the other hand, the number of visitors would be limited: currently one visitor is set per seven square meters of accessible area. Roughly calculated on the basis of the size of the previous game (based on an area of ​​86.000 m²), around 12.300 visitors are likely to be in the halls of SPIEL'21 at the same time. In practice, the number is probably significantly lower because the area could be smaller and not the entire area is also accessible to visitors.

Purely fictitious: If one reckons with an average length of stay of 4,5 hours (roughly morning visitors and afternoon visitors), 24.600 visitors per day could stroll through the fair - with four days that would be around 100.000 visitors, i.e. around half of them Record number of SPIEL'19. That would not even come close to normal operation, but this is hardly to be expected after the long pandemic. Fans and organizers are currently keeping their fingers crossed that everything will go smoothly with the further corona development. Even if the SPIEL'21 as an on-site trade fair is far from being dry and safe, the current situation at least offers cause for hope. And if the physical fair does not work out, you could still go to the Internet, as Friedhelm Merz Verlag had already indicated.

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