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Germany cancels Oktoberfest for 2nd year over virus fears

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 11:33 AM EDT
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BERLIN (AP) — Bavarian officials on Monday canceled Oktoberfest festivities for a second year in a row due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, saying there are too many risks in hosting the celebrations — which bring in visitors from around the world — during a global pandemic.

Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder said it was with “heavy hearts” that they decided to call off the festival for which the state is known globally, but that with coronavirus numbers still stubbornly high and German hospitals already struggling, it had to be done.

“Oktoberfest will be held again, and will be big again,” he pledged.

Germany is in the middle of a coronavirus lockdown that includes a ban on large gatherings, with an infection rate of 146.9 new weekly infections per 100,000 residents.

Bavaria is slightly below the national average with 145.4 new weekly infections per 100,000, according to the country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute.

Oktoberfest typically attracts about 6 million visitors from around the world and had been scheduled from Sept. 18 to Oct. 3.

The combination of huge tents full of people and the consumption of large quantities of alcohol, as well as the possibility for mutated varieties of the virus to be brought in from abroad, made it particularly hazardous to go ahead with the festival, Soeder said.

After Oktoberfest was canceled last year, about 50 of the southern German city’s beer halls and other establishments hosted smaller parties under strict coronavirus guidelines. Mayor Dieter Reiter said the hope was that it again would be possible to have open-air beer gardens and patios open under certain restrictions.

However difficult the decision to cancel Oktoberfest, it would have been worse if the city waited too long and had to call it off after preparations were already underway, he said.

“For me, personally, it was no easy decision because it is a huge date in the calendar for the mayor,” he said. “Much more importantly, it’s a huge shame for the millions of fans worldwide.”

Under Germany’s national “emergency brake” legislation passed last month, measures limiting personal contacts, closing leisure and sports facilities and shutting or restricting access to many stores kick in for areas which have more than 100 weekly new cases per 100,000 residents for three consecutive days. Restrictions also include a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew.

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