Oktoberfest ‘very unlikely’ to take place in 2021, says Munich’s mayor

Oktoberfest, the world's largest festival held annually in Munich, is looking increasingly unlikely to take place for the second year in a row, according to local politicians and organisers.

Oktoberfest 'very unlikely' to take place in 2021, says Munich’s mayor
Archive photo shows an Oktobestfest waitress holding a typically large number of beer mugs. Photo: DPA

The spokesman for Oktoberfest, Peter Inselkammer, estimated the chances at “fifty-fifty” at the beginning of April. But according to Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter, the cancellation of the Oktoberfest this year is looking increasingly likely.

Last year, Reiter assumed without doubt that Oktoberfest would be back in 2021, the Social Democratic (SPD) politician told the Bild newspaper. 

But now “the hope is getting weaker from week to week, if I am honest,” Reiter said. 

In 2020 Oktoberfest was cancelled because of the coronavirus crisis and a ban on large events. But in 2021, many were hopeful that the beer would be flowing again during the three-week festival, which starts each year in mid-September.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Oktoberfest 2020 cancelled over coronavirus pandemic

“As of today, it could not take place according to the current regulations,” Reiter stated, pointing out that the pandemic does not appear to be subsiding. “And that’s why it’s hard at the moment to imagine that the world’s largest folk festival can take place.” 

Last year wasn’t the first time that the more than 200-year-old festival was cancelled. Due to cholera, Oktoberfest was also axed in 1854 and 1873. And during wartime, the beer festival did not go ahead. It was also put on pause during hyperinflation in 1923.

‘People want to come’

The approval or cancellation of the festival is likely to be hotly debated politically in the coming weeks, especially as Germany will be holding its national elections just over a week after the festival’s planned start on September 18th. 

According to the Wiesnwirte festival organisers, reservation requests are already piling up at the festival tents.

“People want to come,” Inselkammer had said a few weeks ago. The vast majority of regulars have already secured their places, he added. “Only very few have canceled.” 

Most hotel reservations have come from guests from Munich and the region, but there are also inquiries from abroad. Currently hotels in Germany are only accepting guests travelling for business or emergency reasons. 

Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder (CSU), like Reiter, has already expressed scepticism, but said he was not ready to reach a final decision.

Reiter told Bild that he and Söder would come to a conclusion in May, not just about Oktoberfest but for all major folk festivals in Bavaria. 

“There is a high probability that such festivals cannot be justified due to (infection protection) reasons.”

What about an ‘Oktoberfest light’?

In normal years, around six million visitors come to Oktoberfest during the two festival weeks. They drink, sing and celebrate in the tents in a very confined space. 

Without effective vaccination protection, the festival would have all the prerequisites for an international superspreader event, said Reiter.

According to festival organisers, early June is the latest time to cancel or commit to Oktoberfest. “Then we would have to commission the set-up companies,” says Inselkammer. 

He also spoke out against a “Wiesn light”, referring to the giant fairgrounds where the festival usually takes place.

“A slimmed-down version is not a Wiesn. We don’t want that,” he said. “With masks, limited seating and spacing in the tent: that makes no economic sense – and it’s not a Wiesn the way we love and want it. It’s no fun.”

For the organisers, another cancellation would cost a lot of money. The economic value of the world’s largest folk festival is €1.2 to 1.3 billion.

READ ALSO: Oktoberfest in numbers: A look inside Germany’s multi-billion business

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

It’s back again: amid sinking temperatures, the incidence of Covid-19 has been slowly rising in Germany. But is this enough to merit worrying about the virus?

Could there be a new wave of Covid-19 in Germany this autumn?

More people donning face masks in supermarkets, friends cancelling plans last minute due to getting sick with Covid-19. We might have seen some of those familiar reminders recently that the coronavirus is still around, but could there really be a resurgence of the virus like we experienced during the pandemic years?

According to virologists, the answer seems to be ‘maybe’: since July, the number of people newly infected with Covid-19 has been slowly rising from a very low level.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), nine people per 100,000 inhabitants became newly infected in Germany last week. A year ago, there were only around 270 reported cases.

Various Corona variants are currently on the loose in the country. According to the RKI,  the EG.5 (also called Eris) and XBB.1.16 lines were each detected in the week ending September 3rd with a share of just under 23 percent. 

The highly mutated variant BA.2.86 (Pirola), which is currently under observation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), also arrived in the country this week, according to RKI. 

High number of unreported case

The RKI epidemiologists also warned about a high number of unreported cases since hardly any testing is done. They pointed out that almost half of all registered sewage treatment plants report an increasing viral load in wastewater tests.

The number of hospital admissions has also increased slightly, but are still a far cry from the occupation rate amid the pandemic. Last week it was two per 100,000 inhabitants. In the intensive care units, only 1.2 percent of all beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Still, a good three-quarters (76.4 percent) of people in Germany have been vaccinated at least twice and thus have basic immunity, reported RKI. 

Since Monday, doctors’ offices have been vaccinating with the adapted vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer, available to anyone over 12 years old, with a vaccine for small children set to be released the following week and one for those between 5 and 11 to come out October 2nd.

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has so far only recommended that people over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions get vaccinated.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who should get a Covid jab this autumn in Germany?

“The pandemic is over, the virus remains,” he said. “We cannot predict the course of coming waves of corona, but it is clear that older people and people with pre-existing conditions remain at higher risk of becoming severely ill from Covid-19”

The RKI also recommended that people with a cold voluntarily wear a mask. Anyone exhibiting cough, cold, sore throat or other symptoms of a respiratory illness should voluntarily stay at home for three to five days and take regular corona self-tests. 

However, further measures such as contact restrictions are not necessary, he said.

One of many diseases

As of this autumn, Covid-19 could be one of many respiratory diseases. As with influenza, there are no longer absolute infection figures for coronavirus.

Saarbrücken pharmacist Thorsten Lehr told German broadcaster ZDF that self-protection through vaccinations, wearing a mask and getting tested when symptoms appear are prerequisites for surviving the Covid autumn well. 

Only a new, more aggressive mutation could completely turn the game around, he added.

On April 7th of this year, Germany removed the last of its over two-year long coronavirus restrictions, including mask-wearing in some public places.

READ ALSO: German doctors recommend Covid-19 self-tests amid new variant