Leipzig Book Fair cancelled over coronavirus fears

One of Germany's biggest international events has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Leipzig Book Fair cancelled over coronavirus fears
A sign for this year's Leipzig Book Fair. Photo: DPA

A spokesperson told DPA that the Leipzig Book Fair, the second-largest event of its kind in Germany, was not going ahead this year.

The city authorities in Leipzig and the book fair's management team made the decision together on Tuesday, according to city spokesman Matthias Hasberg. He said it was a preventative measure.

The cancellation comes as Germany grapples with 188 coronavirus cases, including the first confirmed case in Saxony, the state where Leipzig is situated.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: Three more German states confirm cases as total number rises to 188

It's a huge blow to the book industry. The fair is seen by publishers as an opportunity to draw attention to their authors.

The festival was supposed to run from March 12th to 15th with a focus on works from across south-eastern Europe.

It was set to feature 3,700 events at 500 locations throughout Leipzig's trade fair grounds and the wider city, and had been expected to draw 2,500 exhibitors from 51 countries.

Across Germany, several major trade fairs have already been cancelled or postponed due to the increasing number of infections, including the ITB travel fair in Berlin, Pro Wein in Düsseldorf and the International Craft Fair in Munich.

The Leipzig Book Fair attracted 286,000 visitors last year.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: The everyday precautions to take if you're in Germany

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.