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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.

READ ALSO:

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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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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