MUNICH, Germany: Authorities in Germany have called off Oktoberfest for the second straight year, saying the festival, which attracts nearly 6 million revelers from across the globe, could increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
The decision has come at a time when Germany is under a strict lockdown to curb a persistently high rate of COVID-19 infections, which has put an enormous strain on its medical establishment.
The festival, which Bavaria is known for, has been called off with "heavy hearts", but it had to be done in view of the current situation, said Bavarian Governor Markus Soeder, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Oktoberfest had been scheduled from September 18 to October 3 this year. But the possibility of revelers bringing in mutated virus strains from other parts of the world, coupled with the risk of transmission as people crowded into tents and consumed large amounts of alcohol, prompted authorities to hit pause on this year's celebrations, Soeder said.
At 145.4 new weekly infections per 100,000, the infection rate in Bavaria is slightly below the national average of 146.9 new weekly infections per 100,000 residents, according to Germany's disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute.
Though the decision to call off the festival was a difficult one, it would have been worse had the festival been cancelled after preparations were already underway, said Mayor of Munich Dieter Reiter.
"For me, personally, it was no easy decision, because it is a huge date in the calendar for the mayor," he said, adding, "Much more importantly, it's a huge shame for the millions of fans worldwide."