Germany cancels Oktoberfest for 2nd year over virus fears

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FILE - In this file photo dated Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, people reach out for a glass of beer during the opening of the 186th 'Oktoberfest' beer festival in Munich, Germany. Bavarian officials have announced Monday May 3, 2021, they have canceled Oktoberfest festivities for the second year in a row due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus global pandemic. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, FILE)

BERLIN – 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.