Munich's Oktoberfest celebrations canceled amid coronavirus pandemic: 'The risk is just too high'

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Markus Soeder, the governor of Bavaria, along with Dieter Reiter, the mayor of Munich, announced on Tuesday that the region’s annual Oktoberfest festivities would be canceled due to the health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Difficult decision with Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter,” Soeder wrote on social media, per a translated tweet. “The Oktoberfest 2020 must be canceled. The risk is just too high. You can neither keep your distance there nor wear a face mask. Living with [coronavirus] means living cautiously until there is a vaccine or medication.”

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The festivities, which were scheduled to begin on Sept. 19 and run through Oct. 4, would have been the 187th celebration of the beer-themed event.

Soeder and Reiter appeared together at a press conference on Thursday morning to announced the news, with Soeder calling it “unbelievably sad,” reports the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA).

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Reiter said that, in addition to being disappointing for Germans and hopeful visitors, the decision will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on the economy. Some 6 million people attend Munich’s Oktoberfest celebrations every year, the DPA reported, with many coming from around the globe.

Foreign visitors, too, pose further risk for the spreading of the virus, Soeder noted. Germany has already recorded more than 147,000 cases of coronavirus, and over 4,800 deaths as of Tuesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Both leaders said they hope Oktoberfest will celebrations will resume as normal in 2021.

"We hope that next year we can make it up together,” Reiter said.

In this Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 file photo, young women lift glasses of beer during the opening of the 185th 'Oktoberfest' beer festival in Munich, Germany.  (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

In this Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 file photo, young women lift glasses of beer during the opening of the 185th 'Oktoberfest' beer festival in Munich, Germany.  (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

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Oktoberfest, an annual celebration of beer and Bavarian culture, has only been canceled a handful of times in the history of the event, most notably during WWI and WWII, and amid cholera outbreaks in 1854 and 1873, among a few other years, according to the event’s official website.