After a two-year Corona break, the Oktoberfest will take place again in Munich in just under two weeks. Millions of visitors from Germany and abroad can hardly wait to celebrate again at the biggest beer bash in the world. Experts, on the other hand, are worried about the consequences of the mega event.
“Oans, zwoa – gsuffa” will be the motto again in the Bavarian state capital from September 17th, when the 187th Oktoberfest starts in Munich after a two-year break caused by the pandemic. Not only Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder will pay a visit to the Theresienwiese: the Wiesn hosts are expecting more than six million visitors from all over the world in 2022.
However, the Straubinger Gäubodenfest shows how quickly such folk festivals can turn from fun swingers to devastating spreader events. From August 12 to 22, 2022, around 1.3 million visitors attended the festivities in the village of 47,000.
The result: The city of Straubing (667.9) and the district of Straubing-Bogen (650.6) now lead the 7-day incidence of new infections nationwide (as of September 5, 2022). Similar developments were also evident at other major beer festivals, such as the Erlangen Bergkirchweih and the Dachau folk festival.
If the number of visitors is five times as high and the audience is made up of party people from all over the world, it does not take great numeracy skills to anticipate an explosion in the number of corona. The epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs from the Akkon Hochschule Berlin is also concerned about the mega folk festival in the heart of Bavaria: “I think the Oktoberfest is a possible superspreader event. It coincides with the beginning of autumn. From then on, it will be easier for the virus to spread anyway, i.e. the start of the virus season could be accelerated,” he told FOCUS online.
Nevertheless, the 187th Oktoberfest in Munich will take place entirely without corona restrictions. No maximum number of people, no compulsory testing or vaccination. Mouth and nose protection can be worn on a voluntary basis.
The Bavarian Prime Minister and Wiesn friend Markus Söder supports the almost non-existent corona security concept of the organizers: “I’m coming without a mask,” the CSU boss announced a few days ago to the “Bild” newspaper. Everyone should “decide on their own responsibility whether and how they visit the Wiesn”. According to the 55-year-old, the corona situation is “currently stable”, and there is “no growing burden in the hospitals”.
This thesis now leads to a lot of headwind, especially on the part of doctors and scientists. “Of course it will lead to an increase in the number of cases,” says Johannes Bogner, head of the Clinical Infectious Diseases section at the LMU-Klinikum, in an interview with “ZDF”. In addition, bottlenecks in the Munich clinics are also possible, which could lead to non-essential interventions having to be postponed.
Timo Ulrichs also sharply criticizes the CSU politician: “I think it is problematic if Mr. Söder publicly announces that he does not want to wear a mask at the Oktoberfest! He has a role model function and suggests with this statement that things won’t be so bad in autumn/winter. But that could easily prove to be a fallacy, also fueled by carelessness at such a possible superspreader event.”
So, as a responsible person, should you completely avoid the long-awaited Oktoberfest? Not necessarily. However, according to Timo Ulrichs, a visit should be done with care. “People should get tested before visiting and only visit the Oktoberfest with a negative test. Wearing a mask at the seat is illusory, but an FFP-2 mask should be worn on all trips to the toilet, for example.”
The Berlin epidemiologist also recommends undergoing a booster vaccination before visiting. Wiesn returnees should test themselves closely for a few days and closely monitor whether symptoms occur. If this is the case, it is essential to go into isolation to avoid a wave of contagion.