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Oktoberfest is Germany's world-famous and the world's largest beer festival that sees close to six million people from around the world congregate in the months of September-October. The raucous fortnight of celebration sees beer-swigging revelers from everywhere, huddle around communal tables and gorge on pretzels and sausages, and enjoy brass bands.
The festival has, in its history, been cancelled on accounts of war, economic depression and cholera. It was called off for the first time in 1813 due to the Napoleonic Wars; in 1854, a crushing cholera outbreak left thousands dead. The event was also scrapped during WWII and from 1946 to 1948.
A set of controversial curbs to control the third wave in the country was implemented in April—allowing the government to close schools and impose overnight curfews in any city where infections were on the rise.
At a news conference earlier this week, Deiter Reiter, Munich Mayor, stated that cancelling the event wasn't an "easy decision". Bavarian Premier Markus Söder added that the situation was "too uncertain" and that social distancing and facemasking were not feasible in the traditional beer tents.
In a display of prudence and accountable governance, the authorities, said Söder, took the decision well in advance in order to avert economic losses. The festival is a major revenue source for the local economy, bringing in close to $1.5bn in 2019.
Locally known as the Wiesn, the event was supposed to be held between September 18 and October 3 this year. Cancelling the festival would also prevent potential damage to the brand if it accidentally contributed to the pandemic flaring up in the country—it has the reputation of a "high-quality [and] safe" festival, according to Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of Oktoberfest.
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Such timely cognizance of the consequences of a virus whose evolution and infection patterns are still being studied, is admirable considering the recent negligence regarding public events and social gatherings that has supposedly contributed to the deadly second wave of the pandemic in India.
Last year, the official celebration in Munich was called off but residents did throng local breweries in traditional outfits. Meanwhile, Dubai is reportedly planning its own version of the historical festival, a move that has the City of Munich and Germans miffed.
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