Munich on Tuesday became the first major German city to cancel its upcoming Christmas market, which typically draws some three million visitors, blaming the “dramatic” resurgence of the coronavirus.
Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter called it “bitter news” for the city’s residents and merchants, but said it would be irresponsible for the event to go ahead.
“The dramatic situation in our hospitals and the exponentially increasing infection numbers leave me no choice: unfortunately, the Munich Christmas market cannot take place this year,” Reiter said in a statement.
Many German Christmas markets were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Munich’s “Christ Child Market” is the first of the largest and most popular to be removed this year.
It was scheduled to open on November 22.
Munich is in the Bavarian region of southern Germany, which is grappling with one of the highest infection rates in the country amid a fierce fourth wave of the pandemic.
Bavaria had a weekly incidence rate of 554.2 recorded infections per 100,000 people on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute, well above the national figure of 312.4, an all-time high for the country.
Germany hosts some 2,500 Christmas markets each year that are popular with visitors who come to savor mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, and shop for seasonal trinkets among clusters of wooden chalets.
In pre-pandemic times, they attracted about 160 million domestic and international visitors a year that generated revenues of three to five billion euros ($ 3.6-5.9 billion), according to the stalls industry association of BSM.
Eyes are now turning to cities like Cologne, Stuttgart, Nuremberg and Dresden, which are preparing their own popular Christmas markets.
Several smaller markets in Germany have already been canceled, but so far many organizers have said they plan to move on.
Some plan to impose stricter rules preventing access to the unvaccinated, while other cities will require proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test before allowing visitors to enter the Christmas market areas.