Back in August this year, scientists held three experimental concerts in Germany, in order to study how coronavirus may be transmitted during large, indoor performances. Now, the researchers have published their findings from the experiment, saying that the risk of COVID-19 spreading in venues following strict protocols is “low to very low”.
Staged at Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig by researchers from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the study – named “Restart-19” – revolved around three concerts by the German singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko, attended by more than 1,200 volunteers. As previously seen in images shared from the performance, all attendees wore masks, and were tested for coronavirus before entering.
Over the course of the experiment, the volunteers were asked to simulate three different scenarios while wearing location tracking devices and fluorescent hand sanitiser, which helped researchers identify what surfaces were most frequently touched. Of these scenarios, one had no restrictions (as in pre-pandemic times), one had moderate restrictions, and one had strict restrictions with more social distancing and entry routes.
Unsurprisingly, the stricter arrangement proved safest when it comes to the risk of spreading the virus. “There is no argument for not having such a concert,” Dr. Michael Gekle, part of the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg team, tells the New York Times. “The risk of getting infected is very low.”
Social distancing was found to be a major factor in reducing this risk (especially upon arrival at the venue and during breaks, when risk was particularly high). Ventilation was also a significant contributor to risk, however, with different methods of circulating air tested across the various scenarios.
Dr. Gabriel Scally, the president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine, warns that we shouldn’t get too excited about the results of the study, however. While the new findings about the effects of restrictions are potentially “useful”, Scally says, the measures themselves could be very difficult to replicate at real events.