German study concludes “low to very low” risk of coronavirus spreading at indoor gigs

Good ventilation and social distancing are key

A study into the transmission of coronavirus at indoor concerts has concluded the environment poses a “low to very low” risk to attendees of contracting the disease.

Scientists from Halle University in Germany carried out The Restart-19 experiment across three successive gigs held by German pop singer Tim Bendzko in August. The team has now shared the results of the study, finding that transmission is “low” so long as attendees follow correct hygiene procedures and the venue limits capacity, with good ventilation.

The study recruited 1,400 volunteers who were pre-tested for COVID-19 and had their temperatures taken. Participants were fitted with masks, a digital location tracker, and hand sanitiser laced with fluorescent dye to help scientists track surface contact.

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Participants wearing FFP2 protective face masks watch singer Tim Bendzko perform in coronavirus test show in Germany. CREDIT: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The first of the three gigs simulated an event before pre-pandemic, with no safety measures in place. The second involved greater hygiene and some social distancing, while the third involved half the numbers and each person standing 1.5m apart.

One of the team’s researchers, Dr. Michael Gekle, said: “There is no argument for not having such a concert. The risk of getting infected is very low” [via The New York Times].

Ventilation was found to be a crucial factor in limiting the spread of COVID-19, the study concluded. In one scenario jet nozzles blasted fresh air through the venue in Leipzig.

In a different scenario “fresh air was sucked into the arena from the rooftop and the jet nozzles were switched off”. The study measured that the risk of being exposed to coronavirus was far greater in the second situation.

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Additionally, the study found that social distancing was important in limiting a person’s exposure to an infectious person’s aerosols. The study found the period of greatest close contact was during breaks and when gig-goers first arrived at the venue.

Dr. Gabriel Scally, president of epidemiology and public health at the Royal Society of Medicine, told The New York Times that the results are “potentially useful” but issued a warning that the context could be tricky to emulate at normal events.

The full study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, is available to read here.

Meanwhile, music professionals in the UK have called on the government to provide a roadmap for the re-opening of venues and festivals.

Steve Reynolds, operations director for Loud Sound Limited who took part in The Survival Tour charity bike ride last month, said: “Our message is that we need a clear date – a no-earlier-than date – from the government so that businesses and people can plan and say, ‘Right, we’re not going to open until, say, March 1 of next year.’

“Then people can go and do other work, but we know that they can come back and their skills and their expertise will be back in the industry. It will help rebound it quickly once we go back in. If we lose that expertise out of the industry, it will only slow the bounce back next year,” he said.

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