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Munich High-End 2021: Achtung, Baby! [UPDATED]

  • We already know that due to the ongoing pandemic, the 2021 Munich High-End hifi show will take place in September instead of May. From the High-End Society’s Wuppertal HQ this week comes the third in a series of press releases announcing developments ahead of this year’s event. The good news is that demand has been so strong from exhibitors that all exhibitor spaces are completely sold out. A waiting list has been established for lollygaggers. Secondly, trade-only days will now eat half of the show’s four-day run.

    ** Press release info ends here **

    My refundable hotel booking is already in the bag and a Deutsche Bahn train ticket won’t be far behind. Beers in the Englischer Garten, here I come.

    Or will I?

    Germany has been in lockdown since the end of November 2020 with restrictions only eased slightly in recent weeks. School kids are back in the classroom but with stricter mask requirements and regular testing. Florists and hairdressers are open again – joining supermarkets and other essential businesses – but masks must be worn by staff and customers at all times. Other high street stores will be given the green light to resume a ‘new normal’ service but only when local COVID-19 cases number less than 50 per 100,000 people. At the time of writing, the national incidence rate for the last seven days sits at 84 cases per 100,000 people. Berlin is currently at 91.3.

    The state of COVID-19 in Berlin, March 16th 2021.

    If you think cases are on a slow downward trend, think again. The Berlin R rate (a four-day average) climbed to 1.42 yesterday causing the Berlin and Brandenburg state governments to put all lockdown easing on hold. This shows just how quickly things can turn.

    More worryingly, the German press is now reporting that the country is already in the grip of a third wave of infections. According to Deutsche Welle, new infections are up 20% on last week; a Robert Koch Institute epidemiologist points to the lockdown easing and the proliferation of the more infectious B117 British virus variant – now three out of every four new cases (!) – as two contributing factors.

    On the 17th March, Germany reported the highest number of new infections for two months. Look at the measurements!

    Source: Google

    Want to track the German COVID-19 situation yourself? A dashboard summary can be found here. Some German vocabulary to help you on your way: ‘Fรคlle’ means ‘cases’; ‘Tage’ means ‘days’; ‘Todesfรคlle’ means ‘deaths’; ‘Gesamt’ means ‘total’. ‘Impfung’ means ‘Immunnisation’. ‘Zahl’ = ‘number’.

    COVID-19 7-day incidences, 16th March 2021 (Source: Robert Koch Institute)

    One clear path out of the worst of the pandemic is the vaccination programme. Alas, that too is moving at a snail’s pace across the EU. Only 8.08% of Berlin residents have so far had their first injection and a mere 3.82% have had both. The national figures are 9.4% (first dose) and 4.2% (both doses). And this has taken almost 3 months. You can dig into the EU’s vaccine distribution rates with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s online tracker here.

    Source: ECDC

    Matters have been complicated further with Germany (and France and Italy) pausing (and then resuming) the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns about blood clot side-effects. Reporting on the same, TheLocal.de said yesterday, “There are now real doubts the EU will hit its goal of vaccinating 70% of the population by September.” At current vaccination rates, less than 10% of German residents will have had both injections by September. Looking to the UK and the 20 million people over there already in receipt of their first shot, someone somewhere in Germany needs to step on the gas.

    Furthermore, we don’t yet know what conditions will need to be met for the German government to open its borders to neighbouring European countries – let alone the USA or Asia – or how long it will take for ‘us’ to get there. Or if other European countries will agree to the same or how long they will take to get there.

    The Coronavirus situation inside the EU is anything but sorted. Poland closed its borders three days ago due to sharply rising case numbers and France is also struggling to keep a lid on new infections. Closer to Munich is Czechia: it shares a border with Bavaria and continues to have one of the worst COVID-19 infection and death rates in Europe.

    Google makes clear a grim picture:

    Source: Google

    To Bavaria’s south, a third wave of COVID-19 infections is underway in Austria:

    Source: Google

    As of right now, cafes and restaurants in Germany remain closed to all but takeaways. Their resumption of normal (seated) service appears distant. Large scale events like concerts and sports games are but specks on the horizon — or maybe they are just dust specks on my glasses. There’s a long way to go before the German (or Bavarian state) government will green-light large events like audio shows.

    Moreover, for it to be an international show proper, Munich High-End will need to see the return of international air travel. A lot can happen in the next six months but for folks flying into Germany from outside of the EU, travel plans need to be locked in sooner rather than later. And we still don’t know if proof of vaccination will become a condition of aeroplane boarding – a digital ‘vaccination’ certificate system has been mooted by the EU but reportedly won’t come online until the summer (at the earliest).

    I love the Munich High-End audio show. It’s where I get to spend time with friends that I don’t see anywhere else. I want to see this September’s event take place as much as anyone and the optimist in me wants to see the EU’s current pandemic situation as better than it is. And yet, living through this pandemic in Germany – where we find ourselves still in lockdown, staring down a third wave of infections with all but the smallest of in-person meetups allowed, as well as a frustratingly slow vaccination roll-out – the realist in me urges caution.

    If 2020’s pandemic trajectory taught us anything, it’s that we need to hold onto our hats. For yours truly, it’s as simple as this for Munich High-End 2021: no vaccine, no show.

    Further information: High-End Society

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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