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Oktoberfest ‘very unlikely’ to take place in 2021, says Munich’s mayor

Oktoberfest, the world's largest festival held annually in Munich, is looking increasingly unlikely to take place for the second year in a row, according to local politicians and organisers.

Oktoberfest 'very unlikely' to take place in 2021, says Munich’s mayor
Archive photo shows an Oktobestfest waitress holding a typically large number of beer mugs. Photo: DPA

The spokesman for Oktoberfest, Peter Inselkammer, estimated the chances at “fifty-fifty” at the beginning of April. But according to Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter, the cancellation of the Oktoberfest this year is looking increasingly likely.

Last year, Reiter assumed without doubt that Oktoberfest would be back in 2021, the Social Democratic (SPD) politician told the Bild newspaper. 

But now “the hope is getting weaker from week to week, if I am honest,” Reiter said. 

In 2020 Oktoberfest was cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis and a ban on large events. But in 2021, many were hopeful that the beer would be flowing again during the three-week festival, which starts each year in mid-September.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Oktoberfest 2020 cancelled over coronavirus pandemic

“As of today, it could not take place according to the current regulations,” Reiter stated, pointing out that the pandemic does not appear to be subsiding. “And that’s why it’s hard at the moment to imagine that the world’s largest folk festival can take place.” 

Last year wasn’t the first time that the more than 200-year-old festival was cancelled. Due to cholera, Oktoberfest was also axed in 1854 and 1873. And during wartime, the beer festival did not go ahead. It was also put on pause during hyperinflation in 1923.

‘People want to come’

The approval or cancellation of the festival is likely to be hotly debated politically in the coming weeks, especially as Germany will be holding its national elections just over a week after the festival’s planned start on September 18th. 

According to the Wiesnwirte festival organisers, reservation requests are already piling up at the festival tents.

“People want to come,” Inselkammer had said a few weeks ago. The vast majority of regulars have already secured their places, he added. “Only very few have canceled.” 

Most hotel reservations have come from guests from Munich and the region, but there are also inquiries from abroad. Currently hotels in Germany are only accepting guests travelling for business or emergency reasons. 

Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder (CSU), like Reiter, has already expressed scepticism, but said he was not ready to reach a final decision.

Reiter told Bild that he and Söder would come to a conclusion in May, not just about Oktoberfest but for all major folk festivals in Bavaria. 

“There is a high probability that such festivals cannot be justified due to (infection protection) reasons.”

What about an ‘Oktoberfest light’?

In normal years, around six million visitors come to Oktoberfest during the two festival weeks. They drink, sing and celebrate in the tents in a very confined space. 

Without effective vaccination protection, the festival would have all the prerequisites for an international superspreader event, said Reiter.

According to festival organisers, early June is the latest time to cancel or commit to Oktoberfest. “Then we would have to commission the set-up companies,” says Inselkammer. 

He also spoke out against a “Wiesn light”, referring to the giant fairgrounds where the festival usually takes place.

“A slimmed-down version is not a Wiesn. We don’t want that,” he said. “With masks, limited seating and spacing in the tent: that makes no economic sense – and it’s not a Wiesn the way we love and want it. It’s no fun.”

For the organisers, another cancellation would cost a lot of money. The economic value of the world’s largest folk festival is €1.2 to 1.3 billion.

READ ALSO: Oktoberfest in numbers: A look inside Germany’s multi-billion business

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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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