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CULTURE

Meet the German Rolling Stones super fan delighted at end to US travel ban

Elisabeth Zours saw her first Rolling Stones show in East Berlin in 1990, just after the fall of the Wall, and nothing was ever quite the same again.

Die-hard Rolling Stones fan Elisabeth Zours
Die-hard Rolling Stones fan Elisabeth Zours poses with an autographed LP album of the legendary British rock band, in Berlin on November 2, 2021. John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Since then, barely a year has passed without the German office manager catching the still spry rockers on stage somewhere in the world – that is, until the pandemic and the US travel ban.

Now with the United States reopening its borders on Monday to fully-vaccinated foreign visitors after a more than 18-month block on travel
from much of the globe, the 51-year-old Zours will be among the first in line.

Like so much else, her life-long Stones marathon came to a screeching halt with the virus outbreak.

“The tickets I still had from the (cancelled) 2020 US tour were still good but the travel ban was in place and I didn’t know if I would be able to use them,” she said.

“And then (drummer) Charlie Watts died (in August) — it was all an emotional rollercoaster.”

‘This could be it’

Zours, who’s seen the band in action dozens of times – “in the high double digits”, – said superfans like herself worried the tour might never resume given the Stones’ advanced age.

She had a ticket for the St. Louis show, the first since Watts’s death, on September 26 and held out hope that Joe Biden would loosen the rules in time.

“I even thought about travelling via a third country to try to get into the States, then decided it was too risky,” she said.

“I ended up watching it (the Watts tribute) in the middle of the night in bed on a livestream.”

Zours was “frustrated” that even months after the EU opened up to US travellers, the door to America was still shut to Europeans.

“It made no sense – especially for those of us who are vaccinated” and while US infection rates were generally far higher than in most EU member states.

So when the White House finally heralded the good news on October 15, Zours knew she’d be on the first plane.

“Now I’ve got tickets for four concerts, starting in Atlanta then Detroit, Austin and Hollywood, Florida,” said Zours, who plans a three-week odyssey to catch up with the band.

SEE ALSO: US to lift travel ban for vaccinated Europeans on November 8th

For the last several years, being a massive Stones’ fan has been a bit like living on borrowed time, Zours admitted — you never know when your luck will run out.

“You’re always aware it could be the last tour,” she said.

“But now that Charlie Watts is dead, this really could be it.”

‘Broken hearts, sad goodbyes’

Zours’s love for the Stones reaches back to her early adolescence.

“I fell for a classmate and the Stones were a way to get to know him better,” she said.

“It was the 80s and I’d force him to record the albums on cassettes for me. Nothing happened with the guy but the Stones are still with me.”

She’s conscious of the fact that all the travelling to indulge her life’s passion comes at a price.

“The climate summit (in Glasgow) is happening right now and it’s an issue that’s really important to me,” Zours said, noting she tried to offset
transatlantic trips with things like eating less meat.

Then there are some of the Stones’ songs themselves whose macho swagger hasn’t held up well over time.

“‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Under My Thumb’ – it’s true, some of the lyrics are problematic. But I never saw the band as misogynistic or felt put down by them – they empower me.”

Just as many families are looking forward to the end of the US travel ban for emotional reunions, Zours said seeing the Stones again in their element will feel like coming home.

Their music is like a good friend – it’s helped me through crises since I was 12: broken hearts, sad goodbyes, times when I was down,” she said.

“Whenever I hear their music I feel good again.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Better than I could have imagined’ – How foreigners feel about being able to travel to Germany

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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