A pop concert as a corona experiment, live in Leipzig

A pop concert for an audience of more than 2,000 people, inside a sports arena, without observing a distance of a meter and a half? While the pandemic is far from over? It’s happening this Saturday in Leipzig – as part of a science experiment.

Admission to the concert of the Berlin singer Tim Bendzko is free. But only healthy and non-pregnant people between 18 and 50 years old are admitted.

Pre-registration was required so that everyone could get a free corona test kit sent to their home. Without a negative result, no one will enter. At the entrance, the temperature of participants is also recorded.

The project, named Restart-19, is led by researchers from the university hospital of the city of Halle. The aim is to investigate how the risk of contamination can be limited at large gatherings in closed spaces.

Because infections are mainly caused by contacts between people, the researchers want to measure how many contacts take place during the concert in different situations. In the all-day experiment, three scenarios are played through with the participants.

Multiple scenarios

In the first scenario, the concert is started and the audience is allowed into the room, as it happened before the corona crisis. In the second scenario, the audience is allowed into the room again, but now according to a hygiene plan with clear distance rules. And in the third scenario, distance rules must also be observed in the stands and only part of the audience is allowed into the hall. Tim Bendzko plays during all three parts.

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All attendees receive a ‘contact tracer’, a transmitter that they have to hang on a cord around their neck. The device continuously measures the number of other participants in a vicinity of thirty meters. It also keeps track of where those ‘meetings’ take place: at the entrance, in the stands or in the foyer. In this way, it is hoped to gain insight into which moments and which places pose the greatest risks of contamination at large gatherings.

While everyone in the arena should – if all goes well – have a recent corona test, all participants will also be given an FFP-2 mouth and nose mask at the entrance, which they must wear all the time, except during outdoor breaks. They also receive a bottle of disinfectant gel, with the encouragement to regularly disinfect their hands.

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The gel is fluorescent. As a result, it is intended, with UV light it can be made visible which surfaces are touched a lot – and are therefore potential sources of infection. This information could be taken into account when drawing up hygiene plans, for example by regularly disinfecting those areas.

Initially it was hoped that 4,000 people would register. But because there was less enthusiasm than hoped for, the registration period was extended twice. According to the leader of the experiment, Stefan Moritz, head of the infectious diseases department at the university hospital, the project could also yield useful results with the 2,200 participants who have now signed up.

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The project, which is funded by the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, is the result of a conversation between sports club SC DHfK from Leipzig and the university. The club was looking for help, to be able to hold major sporting events again despite corona. The university could not make this possible immediately, but the conversation did lead to the plan for the concert experiment, which is supported by SC DHfk. The results of the study are expected in October.

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