Yes, we are suspending our weekly milonga. I am very conflicted about it. If you suspend, when will it end? Milonga organisers in Italy and Germany are cancelling events, voluntarily or by law, but how are they going to decide when to open again? When it feels good? Swine Flu, in 2009, qualified as a pandemic but evaporated, only to return in 2010. Last week, a person in Indonesia died of Swine Flu (Influenza A/H1N1), which was mistaken for COVID-19. Is Italy going to close shop for a year? My suggestion, that all Europe’s tango dancers quarantine themselves for a month in Northern Italy and get it over with, by dancing full time, has not gathered significant traction. It doesn’t matter anymore. The ship has sailed.
Most of you remember Swine flu, which the vast majority of tango dancers danced blissfully through. I know I did. Still, it seemed similar to COVID-19. It started in far-away Mexico, with most people suffering mild symptoms and a serious number of related deaths, including children. Mexico closed the country completely for a couple of weeks: schools, harbours, travelling, social life. It traveled very fast around the world, affecting mostly vulnerable people with a previous condition. Sound familiar? The authorities tried a containment strategy, but after four months, conceded that the numbers could not be counted anymore. Interesting fact is that, in the end, 2009 saw less cases of flu-related mortality in the Netherlands than previous years. I am not basing any argument on this though.
Suspending a local tango event of 40-60 people is not going to make a big difference, if restaurants, public transport, schools, soccer-matches and Saturday markets continue to operate. After all, these settings are out of control. Whereas, in the local milonga, you can obtain people’s email address, clean door knobs with disinfectant and look dancers in the eye when you ask them if they have been dancing in Northern Italy or at 阿根廷探戈爱好者俱乐部 (The Piao Tango Club in Wuhan). Of course, it may not prevent all dancers from getting infected but will mitigate risks to a significant degree. I guess I am saying that only a total lock down of the country can stop this thing from spreading and even then – remember Mexico – containment efforts will most likely fail, the virus will return in the fall and make a come-back in 2021.
So, why close the milonga if I only half believe it will resort to anything? What is tipping me over? Well, playing for half-empty dance floors seems pointless. Secondly, slowing the pandemic down, in order for the health care system to keep up with it, seems like a sensible contribution and a responsible thing to do. Responsible tango dancers…yeah go right ahead, you may smile. I had to snigger about it for a while, too.