Munich infections are on the rise, and journalists are certain that Oktoberfest is to blame – even though the case numbers are totally in line with broader regional trends.
The first Oktoberfest since the start of the pandemic draws to a close today, and the press are falling all over themselves to blame rising infections on all that partying and carrying on in densely packed tents:
Two weeks after the start of the Oktoberfest … the Corona numbers in Munich are high, as feared: The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reports an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich on Sunday. …
On Saturday, the city of Munich reported 12,412 Corona cases in the past seven days. It is not known how many were infected at Oktoberfest or in the vicinity …
The Federal Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach (SPD), commented on the increase in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest season via Twitter: “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been conducted prior to admission. Given the price of the beer, an additional 2–3 Euros would hardly have mattered.”
The Munich health officer Beatrix Zurek (SPD) assumes that the actual infection figures are “four to five times higher” than reported. This is because the RKI statistics only include as “cases” those infections which are confirmed by PCR. The number of unreported cases is high, says Zurek, because not everyone who has symptoms also takes a PCR test.
The proportion of patients in intensive care units in Munich with Covid-19, however, remains low – it is 7.28 per cent, according to information from the DIVI intensive care register on Sunday … According to these numbers, 30 people are currently in intensive care with the virus, compared to 23 on Friday. 384 of the 422 intensive care beds in Munich are currently occupied.
In the whole of Bavaria, the incidence on Sunday was 692.5 and thus slightly higher than on Friday (654.8). Here, too, the figures will not be up to date until the middle of next week due to subsequent reports by the health authorities.
There is a greater and a lesser point to be made here. The lesser, is that if infections are four to five times higher than reported (and they are certainly at least that much higher), then Corona has truly become a complete nothingburger and we should all forget about it. That would mean, very roughly, an ICU admission rate of at most 0.15%, and an infection fatality rate that seems very hard to differentiate from zero. Omicron has become just another human-infecting coronavirus, in other words, which might be one reason that it seems to have replaced them:
The greater point, is that there’s actually no evidence of an Oktoberfest effect in the statistics at all.
Munich has above-average case rates for Bavaria as a whole, but totally normal rates for Upper Bavaria specifically. A little further south, on the Austrian side of the border, incidences are even higher. This is a seasonal and a regional pattern that we saw also in 2020 and again in 2021, both years in which Oktoberfest was cancelled.
In fact, the evidence for mass infection events stands in directly inverse proportion to all the loud predictions that every last holiday and folk festival and rock concert is going to usher in the next Virus Apocalypse. Contact tracers of course have unearthed evidence for occasional superspreading incidents, but the merrymaking-induced mass infections forever prophesied by the pandemicists never really seem to happen, and it’s a shame that all the ambient moral certainty of the past few years has blinded so many people to this interesting phenomenon. Because it is interesting, insofar as it suggests that the number or frequency of our contacts is one of the less important factors driving respiratory virus infections, and that environmental and biological constraints play a much larger role than personal behaviour.