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COVID fears dampen trade at Europe's Christmas markets

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By Richard Good  & AP
COVID fears dampen trade at Europe's Christmas markets
Copyright  Michael Probst/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The traditional holiday tree is standing tall in Frankfurt’s main square - but trade is quiet at the annual Christmas market.

Covid fears and sanitary restrictions mean business is down 50% on two years ago, yet many stall owners are just glad to be open at all.

"We are really happy that we can be here this year," candle stall manager Anuschka Haman said. "We are grateful to Frankfurt that we are allowed to be here. We are all quite happy to stick to the restrictions such as wearing a mask and also wearing one when we leave the stall."

Others are not so lucky. In Bavaria, Saxony and in neighbouring Austria, Christmas markets have been closed. Economists though say there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank in London said that although "the near term outlook has indeed darkened for the economy and especially for private consumption", it is now "more likely than before that, say come February, people will be fully protected and will be able to enjoy life almost as normal again and spend money roughly as normal again."

That optimistic forecast is conditional now though - on the ability of health authorities to contain the threat posed by the Omicron variant.