Message by TMD

What you need to know as a tango dancer about COVID-19

About this post
published on March 10th 2020.

This post was compiled by a group of medical doctors, scientists and interested and/or directly affected tanguer@s from different countries in Europe to summarize the current state, based on official and evidence-based sources.

For most of the points below, we have evidence-based and/or official sources. Please keep in mind that everyone is lacking data at the moment (while it is evolving daily) and the situation can change. The full list of references can be found HERE.

#1 Why should you take responsibility TODAY and ACT?
  1. First of all, everybody should care and act, not for themselves, but for the health care system, for health care providers, and for vulnerable people in our communities.
    This is a question of social responsibility much more than individual risk.
  2. The tango scene is especially at risk from this highly contagious virus in regard to getting infected and spreading it: we dance in close embrace, with multiple partners, in crowded venues and often poorly ventilated, all factors contributing to the spread of the virus.
    Protection of our weakest Tango community members is necessary, and due to the exponential snow-ball characteristics it is imperative that everyone knows the following facts
  3. COVID-19 appears to be much more contagious than influenza, especially under conditions of a milonga, and especially in an international multi-day tango event like a marathon or encuentro. The exact fatality rate of COVID-19 is still unknown and under scientific assessment. First intermediate findings tend to indicate that figures are likely to be higher than for influenza.
  4. If you are infected, you will very likely not show any symptoms for the first few days. But: you are probably contagious from day 0 onwards. Current estimates of the incubation period range from 1 to 14 days with a median of 5 to 6 days, and most infected people will develop symptoms within 11 days, unlike influenza, which usually can bring fever after 24h!
  5. If you are a healthy Tango dancer under the age of 50, you might not suffer from severe conditions, but you can still infect other people.
    Dancers above 60 (e.g. encuentros, local milongas!) as well as people with already existing medical conditions, are at high risk of severe outcomes.
  6. If you are contagious (and e.g. asymptomatic) and don’t interact with people at risk, those who you interact with may, however, infect others unknowingly.  Unfortunately, there is a high risk of a chain reaction.
  7. COVID-19 is already in the tango scene.
    The Encuentro in Ferrara was the first case mentioned in the news. If you search for this on Facebook you will find tango dancers declaring to be positive or in quarantine.
    You can safely assume that also in your tango scene you have people who are infected, and probably don’t have any symptoms and could be infecting others.
#2 The official numbers are low, so why should I worry?
  1. In many countries, only severe cases are being tested (although guidelines in countries may tell you otherwise (again subject to change)). Asymptomatic persons are not tested in many cases.
  2. Test results take a bit of time, and testing capacity is limited – so far these are laboratory tests and no rapid tests exist.
  3. In Europe numbers double every 2 days approximately (so far), so the current numbers are at least a factor of 4 to 8 too low due to timing. Exponential growth seems slow in the beginning, but it accelerates, and can potentially quickly explode!
  4. There is no proof that warmer weather will slow the virus.
#3 Why is COVID-19 worse the influenza?
  1. It is a new virus, which means nobody has immunity so far, there is no vaccine (which is currently under development but until it can be used by humans it will need to undergo several testing phases which will take time) and with no recent experience of an outbreak of this scale so far in Europe. We simply cannot protect the weakest members of the tango community in the same way as we can against our seasonal influenza!
  2. The fatality rate of any problematic virus, such as COVID-19 or influenza can be relatively low (<1%) under optimal medical conditions. However, in an epidemic or even pandemic setting getting optimal medical treatment becomes very difficult to achieve. Experts expect the mortality rate of a COVID-19 pandemic to be higher than that of seasonal influenza.
  3. COVID-19 is more contagious and spreads faster. It has a longer incubation period, so people don’t have a slight feeling something is coming, and they are contagious. Thus, they are not aware and cannot change their behavior!
  4. More people infected –> more people affected with severe symptoms –> more people in hospitals –> more stress on already stressed health systems –> higher chance of mortality due to a lack of proper medical care!
#4 Why do we need to protect the medical system?
  1. Severe cases of COVID-19 must get oxygen, which is only accessible in intensive care units. Most hospitals don’t have many ICUs, and these are also needed for other sick patients, not just COVID-19.
  2. Since the virus is contagious with severe consequences for the most vulnerable, health care providers must be protected at all costs, and they already are overworked by now. Also, protective equipment is limited, while some already experience a shortage.
  3. This also means that patients who have nothing to do with COVID-19 are already at risk of not getting attention by medical professionals who might be very busy with the epidemic cases. Besides COVID-19, the medical system has to deal with seasonal flu (simultaneous) and the “usual level of medical needs”. COVID-19 is adding additional stress. When capacity limits are reached, difficult choices may have to be made on who to cure. So COVID-19 can also potentially impact other sick persons or victims of accidents for example.
What can I do – as a dancer or participant?

Public health responses in European countries have been lacking behind. You can help slow the spread and protecting your community by neither organizing nor attending events.

It seems certain that bans on such events by the government will eventually come, but you can help already now by anticipating such needed measures.

Do NOT attend social events if:
  • You have any flu-like symptoms, including fever, and/or cough, and/or difficulty breathing
  • You returned from travel in the last 3 weeks or live in an area with sustained local transmission (not just a travel ban/warning)
  • You have had close physical contact with a person currently under investigation for COVID-19, or who is a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • You belong to the group of humans at greater risk (e.g. due to pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart conditions, age, etc.), or someone in your close surroundings is at risk
  • You have attended an international tango (dance) event in the past 14 days.
  • You don’t know that everyone else in these events is virus-free!


DO NOT ATTEND EVENTS in the next 6 weeks.

If you are healthy, please take care of yourself, by the following actions:
  • Proper hygiene – washing hands with soap when at home (it’s more effective than hand sanitizers) and with alcohol-based sanitizers where no soap is available.
    • With soap, apply and spread the soap for 20 seconds (singing two times Happy Birthday) and use the procedure of surgical handwashing, before washing it off, then take a paper towel to close the water tap.
    • With sanitizers, use the same surgical handwashing procedure.
    • Practice social distancing as much as possible – 2 meters are suggested.
  • If you are not 100% certain that you are not a carrier of the virus, please protect those at risk..

Please stay informed about the development of this outbreak. We propose to limit information intake to official sources. Social media and a lot of newspapers are not trustworthy sources.

What can I do – as an organizer?

WHO has compiled a document for event organizers.

Milongas should be canceled at least for the coming 6 weeks.

If you absolutely have to (!) run your event/milonga and if not prohibited (yet) by your local regulations:

  • Keep a list of contact information about every participant. If you get notified of a participant’s infection, you must take the needed responsibility and notify every participant of your event immediately.
  • Upgrade on hygiene solutions, especially provide enough soap, and get rid of reusable towels and blow dryers, but provide paper towels and large trash cans with lids.
  • Limit the number of participants

International events should be postponed or canceled.

Organizers of international tango events are strongly advised to act now:

  • Evaluate if you can cancel or postpone your event. Many dancers will cancel or be unable to attend anyhow as travel restrictions apply and flights are canceled.
  • Speak to your suppliers (venue, catering, hotels) if you cancel your contracts.

Further legal actions as currently put in place in Italy are likely in the entire Europe and events will hence be prohibited. Be physically and mentally prepared for that.

What about classes/workshops/privates?

Basically the same applies as with events. Since you will be in contact with fewer people, risks are lower, of course.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

By Daniel de Kay

Admin of TMD