SunLive         

If you thought things in the world were weird before now then just hang on for what's next.

This is not the best time to be making predictions but it does strike me that the more we in New Zealand continue to return to a version of regular life, albeit economically-challenged, the more glaring the differences become between Godzone and the rest of the world.

Already there is a divide. We go to concerts and sporting events; elsewhere there are still Facebook concerts from isolation and sports in empty stadiums.

As pretty much every sentient being in this country has no doubt noticed, we are in a much better position than the vast majority of nations. Even chants from the coterie of whiny mini-Mike Hoskings seem to have quietened down a little after weeks of castigating the government for not being as good as Sweden, Australia, or whatever other cause du jour...

Even those third-rate Magic Talk climate deniers, the Williams and Plunkets and others, can now move on to fawning over Judith Collins while conveniently forgetting last month's dumb opinions, demands for an open border with Australia being only the most obvious thing now on hold.

But it does strike me that New Zealand is now in the perfect place to leap to the front of the world with innovative scientific research.

Research

This was confirmed for me by an experiment currently being planned in Germany where scientists hope to get a picture of exactly how the Covid-19 virus spreads in concert venues and the like by supplying around 4000 concert-goers with tracking devices and bottles of fluorescent disinfectant.

The Leipzig concert will feature German soul-pop singer Tim Bendzko and is planned for August 22. The concert-goers will wear small Contact Tracer devices around their necks. These devices will emit a signal at five second intervals, showing everyone's movements, interactions and social distance from each other.

But that's not nearly all. Everyone will also use special hand sanitizer that also acts as a fluorescent marker to allow scientists to check all surfaces with UV light and see where the infection might have been spread to. Specific vapour in the fog machines will also help show spread.

It'll be a seated venue, but scientists are planning on three distinct experiments: in the first the audience will attend just as in pre-virus times, entering through two main entrances before taking their seats; in the second the crowd will enter through eight entrances for less mingling, and every second seat on the stands will be blocked; in the third only 2,000 people will enter the 12,000 capacity venue and they'll be seated at a 1.5m distance from each other.

That sounds like a whole bunch of scientific fun and should yield all sorts of groovy results to improve future concert-going safety.

Problems

But this experiment – roughly NZ$1,500,000 worth of science – is tricky, for obvious reasons. It could easily become the source of a new outbreak.

To stop that, volunteers will be sent a DIY test kit in advance and have a swab at a doctor’s practice or laboratory 48 hours before the concert starts. Only those who show proof of a negative test will be able to enter. And a face-mask with an exhalation valve will be given to everyone along with disinfectant.

But even that, scientists warn, cannot guarantee complete protection.

So here's the thing: why not do this in New Zealand? We have a pile of large indoor concert venues that are currently being underused and a bunch of scientists. And conducting such an experiment here would both be cheaper and not require all the precautions necessary in a still infected country...

OK. As per usual let's finish with a gig. Something a little different. Next Friday (July 31) at 11am, there's a concert at The Holy Trinity Church featuring favourite songs from stage and screen, presented by Operatunity, who are currently touring the country. They are a group of top-rated New Zealand singers with a local connection. The connection? Pianist for the shows is Tauranga keyboard virtuoso Grant Winterburn, now resident in Auckland.

Tickets are $35 via Eventfinda.co.nz.

Winston Watusi
Music Plus