Munich/Berlin, 21 April 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Germany’s Oktoberfest will not take place this year, making the famous beer festival the latest public event to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.
The run-up to the world’s biggest beer festival, held annually in the Bavarian state capital of Munich, has been beset with uncertainty. Public gatherings are banned in Germany for the coming months due to the coronavirus threat.
The 187th Oktoberfest was set to take place from September 19 to October 4.
Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder, who traditionally would have been in line for the first sip of beer at the festival, announced the cancellation on Tuesday.
“It hurts, it is unbelievably sad,” Soeder said at a press conference alongside Munich mayor Dieter Reiter.
Both said they are hoping to celebrate the festival in 2021.
Around 6 million people normally attend Oktoberfest, which attracts visitors from around the globe. Revellers are packed into beer tents to enjoy 1-litre glasses of Munich’s finest brew.
Soeder and Reiter both stressed that the risk of worsening the pandemic was particularly high due to the large number of international guests at the event, with the Munich mayor saying they make up 30 per cent of visitors.
Large crowds also form outside the tents and in city streets, meaning the required 1.5-metre social-distancing rules currently in place across Germany would be hard to follow.
Reiter said cancelling the beloved event was “a bitter pill” to swallow, also noting that the region’s economy would suffer as a result, with restaurants, hotels and taxi drivers among those that will be hit particularly hard.
The 2019 festival brought in around 1.23 billion euros (1.33 billion dollars).
But for Peter Inselkammer, a spokesman for the Wiesnwirte organization which represents the Oktoberfest hosts, the move doesn’t just hurt financially.
“The cancellation affects us all deeply,” he said. “We look forward to this the whole year long and prepare for it.”
Inselkammer added that no downsized events are planned in the festival’s stead – a kind of “Oktoberfest light,” as some local media outlets have speculated.
“What I absolutely cannot picture is a half-empty beer tent … I imagine the drinking would be made somewhat difficult as a result,” he said.”
This is not the first time Oktoberfest has been cancelled. It fell through in 1854 and again in 1873 due to a cholera outbreak, and the festival did not take place during World War I and II.
Germany has recorded over 143,100 cases of the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began, based on a dpa tally of data from the country’s 16 federal states. At least 4,522 people have died.
With nationwide social-distancing guidelines and a host of economic closures that are only now being gradually lifted, the country has been able to prevent the virus’ exponential spread, bringing the average number of people each infected individual passes it on to down to 0.9, according to disease control officials.
However, the situation varies vastly depending on the region, and Bavaria is currently the worst-affected state, with 38,232 cases and 1,299 deaths, according to the latest figures.
The social-distancing restrictions are initially to stay in place until May 3, while a ban on gatherings is effective until August 31 at the earliest.