A CYCLIST crosses the Oktoberfest beer festival area in front of St. Paul’s church in Munich.—AP
A CYCLIST crosses the Oktoberfest beer festival area in front of St. Paul’s church in Munich.—AP

BERLIN: Germany is cancelling its iconic Oktoberfest beer festival for the second year running due to the coronavirus pandemic, Bavaria’s state premier Markus Soeder said on Monday.

The Oktoberfest, which draws around six million visitors annually from around the world in late September to October, was cancelled in 2020 for the first time since World War II.

“In the classic beer tents at the big festivals, social distancing, masks and other measures are practically impossible to implement,” Soeder said after a meeting with Munich mayor Dieter Reiter.

“The situation is too precarious,” he added. “Imagine there was a new wave and it then became a superspreader event. The brand would be damaged forever and we don’t want that.” Reiter said the cancellation was “a great pity” for the millions of fans of the festival, with “existential consequences” for people’s livelihoods.

But the pair said they hoped the festival, which generates around 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) annually for the local economy, will return in 2022.

The event, where beer-swilling punters in traditional costume typically dance on tables to classic German drinking songs, was scrapped last year because of the pandemic.

And it has previously fallen victim to epidemics with cholera keeping the beer tents empty in 1854 and 1873.

In its 211-year history, the festival, whose delicacies besides beer include roasted almonds and candyfloss, has been cancelled a total of 26 times.

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2021

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