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OKTOBERFEST

Germany’s Oktoberfest 2020 cancelled over coronavirus pandemic

Germany's Oktoberfest beer festival will be cancelled this year as "risks are too high" from the novel coronavirus, Bavarian state premier Markus Söder said Tuesday.

Germany's Oktoberfest 2020 cancelled over coronavirus pandemic
Archive photo shows a busy beerh all in Oktoberfest. Photo: DPA

The event, which takes place annually in late September, would be too dangerous “as long as there is no vaccine”, Söder said.

Even with masks and social distancing, the risk would be too high, he said, adding, “living with the coronavirus means living carefully”.

Germany has banned major events until August 31st as part of measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus.

The festival, which dates back to 1810, had been scheduled to take place from September 19th until October 4th. However, there had been a question mark over Oktoberfest going ahead since it's such a huge event.

Around six million visitors in total attend the event, also known as Wiesn, in Munich every year.

The local economy generated more than €1.2 billion thanks to Oktoberfest in 2018, according to the economic department of the Bavarian state capital.

Söder, of the CSU, and Munich's Mayor Dieter Reiter, of the Social Democrats, announced in a press conference that the event was cancelled this year.

“We want to continue to protect Bavaria,” Söder said. 2020 is “a year, unfortunately, without Wiesn,” he added.

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Before the cancellation, Söder had said he was sceptical about whether a festival of this size could take place during the pandemic.

Oktoberfest has been cancelled before due to major outbreaks.

Archive photo shows groups drinking beer at Oktoberfest. Photo: DPA

Due to cholera, the festival was cancelled in 1854 and 1873. And during wartime, the beer festival did not go ahead. It was also put on pause during hyperinflation in 1923.

READ ALSO: Bavaria – How Germany's worst-hit state is emerging from coronavirus lockdown

Why are events banned at the moment?

In new guidelines published last Wednesday, the government said large-scale events “play a major role in the dynamics of infection”.

Experts have repeatedly said that close-contact social gatherings have contributed to the spread of coronavirus.

Large outbreaks, such as that in Heinsberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, have stemmed from social gatherings. In this area, a carnival event is thought to have fuelled the spread of Covid-19 in communities.

This ban on events therefore helps to contain the spread of coronavirus and at the same time provides some clarity for organisers and consumers.

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

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Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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