It won’t have escaped the notice of most audiophiles, but Munich High-End has been cancelled this year, due to the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As the largest, and most important show on the audio calendar each year, its closure this year will have widespread implications to the global home audio industry, and reaction to the closure has ranged from viewing it as an astute measure to seeing it as a massive over-reaction. My feelings are that it’s somewhere between these two poles, but closer to being an astute reaction to an ongoing public health issue.
Two questions arise from this cancellation; the first is how manufacturers can best bring their products to market in a ‘virtual Munich’ manner, and many of us in the media are seeing if there are ways (sometimes very co-operative, coordinated ways) to best facilitate that. Watch this space!
The second is if Munich High-End’s shuttering this year really is astute planning and not simply giving into scaremongering, what should someone do about potentially attending other audio shows over the next few months? This is more complex issue.
I have actively tried to not let politics spill over into this site, but in fairness, I think the responses made by the British government to the novel coronavirus outbreak are an example of that stoic ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ approach. To this end, the UK’s advice from its own website (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public) and that of the National Health Service (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/) seems both level-headed and useful. They also tally with the recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Provention (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html). While I am not a medical professional, a big part of my job is to disseminate scientific and technical information in an accessible manner, without too much jargon, so here goes:
The novel coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) has symptoms that include fever and a cough that may progress to a pneumonia that causes shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.
The best methods to slow the spread of the virus are to wash your hands more frequently than usual, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Always wash your hands when you get home or into work. When no soap and water is available, use alcohol-based hand gel. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze, and put used tissues in the bin straight away and then wash your hands. Try to avoid contact with people who are unwell. And don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands if they are not clean.
Most of the above recommendations are similar to those put in place every year when there is an outbreak of influenza, but this year you might actually want to observe these recommendations! While neither the CDC nor the NHS has not made any direct recommendations about the choice of ear-worm that’s useful to accompany your handwashing, the common recommendation – made by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – is to wash your hands to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’, twice. I’m going with a verse and a chorus of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ because it lasts about 30 seconds and you can really hum it hard (or, if you are feeling so disposed, belt out the lyrics to Half Man Half Biscuit’s ‘Vatican Broadside’ to the same tune). What’s your 30 second ear-worm? The NHS has not made any recommendations about handshakes, although many people are replacing the firm handshake with a fist-bump, an elbow-bump, or even a shoe-bump (known as ‘the Wuhan shake’!). Once again, I’m going with either a Churchillian V-sign, or the Vulcan ‘Live Long & Prosper’ gesture. Once again, what’s your preferred gesture, or at least the one that doesn’t end in a fight.
As with anything these days, there is a wealth of disinformation, conspiracy theory and fake news about coronavirus floating round the internet. Most of it should be treated by direct avoidance and washing your hands for at least 20 seconds afterwards. If you think coronavirus is the result of chemtrails triggering 5G masts to deposit a viral load hidden in vaccinations made by the lizard people to enslave humanity, please remember to spout that nonsense into the crook of your arm and try not to infect others.
So, what should you, the show-goer, do? I think the answer is “it depends”! If you are in your mid-20s with no ‘co-morbidities’ (such as a weakened immune system, diabetes, etc), the potential disruption and boredom from being in voluntary quarantine and isolation for a couple of weeks is probably greater than the effects of the coronavirus itself for you. On the other hand, if you are in your late-80s and in poor health, you might want to sit a few shows out until all this blows over. The rest of us sit somewhere between these two extremes. As a result, as of right now, we are still planning on attending AXPONA in April 2020, unless or until we are advised not to or the event is cancelled.