Covid cluster numbers double at Vienna opera

Covid cluster numbers double at Vienna opera


norman lebrecht

September 15, 2020

The Viennese are now reporting 46 positive tests after a Merry Widow performance at the University.

At least two are artists of the Vienna State Opera. The total number of infected contacts has risen today from 24.

For the latest, read here.


  • Doc Martin says:

    It took me a wee while to translate the news item from German, one thing which I am puzzled about is Andreas Huber’s claim that “The virus was probably transmitted before and after, but not during the performance”.

    There is now ample evidence of transmission of Sars-cov-2 involving the larynx, hence singing poses risks. See Nick Wilson’s Editorial in BMJ.

    Research and computer simulations clearly show blasts of virus are carried in the air over distances of many metres. I have been arguing from the beginning of the pandemic, that common sense should inform us, COVID an essentially respiratory condition mainly acquired through inhalation of a virus, is transmitted by aerosols. It is therefore very disconcerting that WHO and other agencies have repeatedly asked for more scientific evidence, when as Dr Fluxman has indicated, this is already available for the closely related SARS! Ironically, the scientific evidence presented by WHO, PHE and SAGE to support their policies, is quite often inconsequential, indirect and not overwhelming.

    It is highly unlikely we would have a pandemic on this scale purely by direct person to person spread. In the week, schools and many office workers return to work, some secondary schools are choosing to keep children in the classrooms during lunch breaks to stop the spread of virus, but the classrooms lack adequate ventilation! In many modern buildings of course there is no option to open windows, which raises another problem.

    For many months aerosol scientists all over the world have been saying that current models of SARS-CoV-2 transmission do not withstand scrutiny. WHO, CDC and PHE guidance on transmission remains stuck, with a head in the sand response to the emerging evidence of the importance of aerosol spread, and an increasingly desperate rear guard defence of fomite and large droplet only spread and the discredited notion that aerosols are only generated by “aerosol generating procedures” within hospital. Wilson, one of the authors of this editorial, contributed to a paper in Anaesthesia earlier in May, which described how aerosols are generated, and found that coughing dyspnoeic patients will release far more aerosols than someone being intubated.

    Vocalisation and effort of breathing dramatically increase aerosol production, neither of which occur in many so called AGPs. Unless a patient coughs during intubation almost no aerosols will be released; this study found only nebulised medication administration on its own and with bronchoscopy resulted in aerosols being produced.

    (Doc Martin is a retired GP based in Belfast)

    • Pam Easto says:

      while everyone is concentrating on emmisions from singing and playing wind instruments I have not heard anyone suggest that the deeper breathing from singers and wind players takes the virus in the air much deeper into the body. Now in my non-medical brain this seems to be a danger point, and on reading your suggested article that is indeed implied
      “Particles up to 50 μm can be captured by inspiratory airflows and are deposited along the much more extensive surface area of the respiratory tract; particles below 10 μm can penetrate as far as alveoli.The site of deposition may determine the viral dose”

  • Doc Martin says:

    I would recommend following Dr John Campbell’s you tube blog, he discusses aerosol transmission from speech, singing etc, with reference to research reported in Nature. They looked at four languages, English, Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic.

    Singing clearly was the worst! Some people are speech super emitters, one reason being is that some people can emit 10 times more droplets when speaking than others. Masks reduce the exposure.

    The Nature publication and video discussion can be obtained here.

  • Tamino says:

    No they don‘t. There is no cluster at Vienna State Opera.
    The cluster happened at a student performance at the private music school MUK in Vienna. One (sic!) member of Vienna State Opera was in the small audience of 61 friends and family of the performing students and tested positive afterwards. Another state opera member, who had contact with the person tested positive, was also precautionarily taken off duty.
    Authorities say all the distancing rules were followed during the performance of students and their privately invited friends and family in the audience. The infections probably happened before or after the performance in social gatherings.
    It‘s important to report such facts correctly, to not cause confusion and damage the music performance sector even further. Even if one doesn‘t like the successor of his personal friend Dominique Meyer.

    • Doc Martin says:

      That is irrelevant, the fact is cases are increasing in Austria you only have to see the data from ECDC or WHO as in the rest of EU. In UK only 11% of test results are reported within 48 hours, so there will be a huge backlog of positives. I have no information on the actual test turnaround time in Austria, but if it is less than 75% they will have a lot more reported later. The significance of late reporting is that it impedes track and trace.

      (Doc Martin is a retired GP)

      • ViennaCalling says:

        17.000 infections since July 1 and only 50 dead people in Austria. Are we really talking about a serious illness??? This virus is losing its power.

        • Inaustria says:

          Not that it matters, but we have 35.853 cases and 758 deaths in total. And yes, an illness that can fill your lungs with blood clots (among other things) and for which there is no 100% cure is indeed serious. You can of course have a mild case, but Id rather avoid it if possible. Wouldn’t you? And Im not sure that its losing its power: the majority of new cases are young people who recover quickly.

  • Inaustria says:

    From what I understand, the singers were in the audience at the beginning of the performance, (staged that way) and therefore Im not sure that it is correct to say that social distancing protocols were entirely correctly followed. Very true, the numbers are growing quite rapidly, with most cases being very young people. Rather frightening.

    • Doc Martin says:

      Yes young people will keep it going for sure. In the Holyland in Belfast, a student “rising damp” quarter they have £20/night house parties, so most will have Cov-19 by the time they are at university etc. Being asymptomatic they will pass it on to friends and family and the elderly. So case numbers are bound to increase as social distancing is ignored. The virus can have an incubation period up to 14 days so you would need at least test results up to a month or more. The virus can give a positive weeks after post-covid-19 recovery.

  • Doc Martin says:

    The doctor and the artist have much in common. The doctor tends to the weaknesses of the flesh, the infirmities of the mind and artists too are healers. Their art is nourishment for the human soul, without it we whither and die.

    Covid-19 has cancelled all my planned concert and opera attendances, being retired I am in the at risk category, so far because of my remote location in Ireland I have managed to avoid it. I make do with records, CDs, DVDs and have used the time productively to learn the Irish harp.

    Here is Lord Inchiquin by Turlough O’Carolan (c1670-1738), the music was never notated until Bunting made his famous collection.

    • Tinkerbelle says:

      You are absolutely right. We are huge fans of opera but gave up public performances some time ago because of the abysmal hygiene standards of the public: yes AEROSOLS!! We always ended up with a debilitating cold after attending live performance. There is a huge amount of wonderful opera and classical music available, all in the comfort of my armchair on our super large TV, at the time we want it. No travel in filthy public transport, no filthy underground or buses. Seventh heaven. I would not enter a live performance if you paid me my weight in gold.

  • Josef O'Lessy says:

    Trying to avoid all illness indefinitely (or until a vaccine, which may be years away) will kill our industry.

    • Jenny B says:

      Yes, but if we continue to attend, you will kill us ………………………………….!!

    • Lancelot Spratt says:

      You lot can do it web streamed for heavens sake. Travel in 2020 is a no brainer with cov-19. A vaccine is very unlikely, the antibody titre falls off after several months.

  • Papageno says:

    I say just open up the country and let Darwin and people’s common sense take its course.

  • Hugh Kerr says:

    Well I’ve been at the Staatsoper for the last 4 nights and I’m feeling fine, the audiences are socially distanced ,the singers tested daily ,masks are worn until you are in the house and many people choose to keep them on during the opera. I think we have to make a choice about life quality and risk and as a 76 year old opera lover I know which choice I’m making, read my reviews in the Edinburgh Music Review.