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World’s biggest beer festival Oktoberfest cancelled over virus fears

Bavaria on Tuesday cancelled Germany’s giant beer festival Oktoberfest this year, the first time the major event has been called off since World War II. The pandemic has wiped major cultural and sporting events off the global calendar, and officials in Germany said holding the annual beer fest would be too risky given the outbreak.

The event is held annually from late September to October and was expected to draw six million visitors. But it is too dangerous to hold it “as long as there is no vaccine”, Bavaria state premier Markus Soeder said.

Even with masks and social distancing measures, the threat of contagion was too high, he said, adding, “living with the coronavirus means living carefully”. The last time Oktoberfest was cancelled was during World War II.

But it has also been cancelled in the past over other health crises cholera kept the beer tents empty in 1854 and 1873. Beer and hop production is arguably a symbol of national identity in Germany.

Germans drank an average of 102 litres of beer each in 2018 in Europe, only the Austrians and Czechs drink more. Germany started reopening some small shops and schools Monday after weeks of lockdown orders across the country to stem the spread of the virus.

The country has seen infections rate on par with many of its hard-hit European neighbours but has avoided high death rates. Experts credit the relatively lower fatality rates with widespread testing and intensive care capacity.

Oktoberfest also happens in Uganda annually in October but there is no communication yet on whether it will take place or will as well be cancelled.

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