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IN PICTURES: Tens of thousands of Swiss celebrate Basel Carnival’s return

Revellers in fancy costumes lit up the freezing streets of Basel in the early hours of Monday as Switzerland's biggest carnival returned for the first time since 2019.

Tens of thousands returned to the Basel Carnival after two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
Tens of thousands returned to the Basel Carnival after two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

The three-day event, which is one of the best-known carnivals in Europe, was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But tens of thousands of people were out in the streets of Switzerland’s third-biggest city before dawn to see the “Morgenstreich” lantern-lit procession get things back with a bang.

At 4:00am the city lights were turned off and the drum majors yelled “Morgestraich, vorwarts marsch!”, giving the forward march order to set off, in the local Basel dialect of German.

Tens of thousands returned to the Basel Carnival after two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Tens of thousands returned to the Basel Carnival after two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

The streets were transformed into a river of painted lanterns, colourful masks and creative costumes flowing through the northern city to the sound of pipes and drums.

The world’s biggest Protestant carnival, which features on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, starts at 4:00am on the first Monday after Ash Wednesday, and lasts for 72 hours.

The annual event is dubbed “the three most beautiful days” in the city, which borders Germany and France and straddles the River Rhine.

READ MORE: Basel’s amazing Fasnacht: How to survive Switzerland’s biggest carnival

The reasons why the carnival takes place a week later in Basel than in other cities in Switzerland and Germany have been lost over the centuries.

It is not known how far the Basel carnival dates back.

Tens of thousands returned to the Basel Carnival after two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

A devastating earthquake in 1356 destroyed the city’s archives, and the earliest document referring to the carnival dates from 1376.

There were fewer large lanterns this year than would normally be seen, as the green light for the 2022 carnival came late, meaning that not all the parading groups had time to get ready.

Some presented the lanterns they had prepared for the cancelled 2020 edition.

Tens of thousands returned to the Basel Carnival after two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Though Switzerland has lifted almost all of its Covid-19 restrictions, the virus has not gone away. The carnival’s traditional big parades on Monday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon have nonetheless been cancelled this year.

2020 marked the first time in around a century that the carnival had been called off — the last time was due to the Spanish flu pandemic.

Tens of thousands returned to the Basel Carnival after two years of cancellations due to the Covid pandemic. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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