The Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder has said Germany’s famous Christmas markets should go ahead during the pandemic, despite rising numbers of coronavirus infections across the country and growing fears of a second wave.
Mr Söder told popular Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag that this year’s popular seasonal markets could still take place, but with masks and less Glühwein [mulled wine].
“You have to come up with clever concepts for the Christmas markets,” he said. “For example, you can define walking routes with [a clear] entrance and exit. Masks would be compulsory and we would have to greatly reduce alcohol consumption,” he told the paper.
Mr Söder’s comments come after Germany reported the highest number of coronavirus cases since the end of April on Saturday, with 2,297 new infections reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) at the beginning of the weekend. Bavaria is one of the worst affected areas, with a seven-day incidence rate considerably higher than the national average.
In the state capital of Munich, where alternative Oktoberfest parties are currently taking place, the incidence rate has risen to 54.2, the city announced on Saturday, up from 50.7 on Friday and well over the threshold at which additional measures are said to be needed.
“WirtshausWiesn” [‘pub Oktoberfest’] kicked off in Munich on Saturday, when the cancelled Oktoberfest was due to begin, amid clear blue skies and sunshine. Many revellers came into the city centre in traditional dress to celebrate and several beer gardens were full.
Over the coming weeks, 50 pub owners hope to create an Oktoberfest atmosphere, while carousels and a ferris wheel have also popped up in the city. “For us, Oktoberfest is neither a place nor an event. It’s a deep sense of life which is anchored within us," Gregor Lemke, a spokesman for several of the city’s inns and pubs, said.
This weekend there has been a relaxed, good mood, but not excessive partying, according to Mr Lemke. However, others on social media have shared photos and criticised what they believe to be a lack of social distancing.
Oktoberfest normally attracts large numbers of visitors every year. Millions of tourists also normally flock to Germany’s beloved Christmas markets; according to the German Tourism Association, 85 million people visited more than 1500 German Christmas markets in 2018.
German-style markets are also popular in the UK, but Birmingham's Frankfurt Christmas Market, billed as the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria, has already been cancelled due to safety fears during the pandemic.