Germany Asks 4,000 People to Attend Concert as a Coronavirus Experiment
Germany is trying out an experimental concert simulation to assess how countries can go back to hosting large-scale, crowded events amid the coronavirus pandemic. Part of its Restart-19 project, and funded by the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, German scientists are seeking 4,000 volunteers to attend an indoor concert in the city of Leipzig on 22 August, as part of a coronavirus experiment.
Headlined by singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko, the concert aims to simulate a mass gathering of participants between 18 and 50 years old to collect data about how people move in crowded spaces, and assess behaviours and crowd movements that could exacerbate virus transmission.
The ‘concert-goers’ will act out three different scenarios in the experiment — in the first, they will enter through two main entrances to mimic pre-pandemic concert-attending procedure; in the second, they will enter through eight different entrances that provides for a more socially-distanced method, and be seated slightly far away from each other (every other seat); and in the third, the participants will follow strict social distancing guidelines, allowing for only 2,000 attendees seated at a 1.5 meter distance from one another.
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The participants will wear tiny contact-tracer devices around their necks that collect data on their movements and the people they come into contact with. In addition, they will be given fluorescent hand-sanitizer upon arrival, which will mark the surfaces they touch throughout the experiment, and give scientists the ability to track the most-touched surfaces with UV light to assess smears. Fog machines often found at gigs will also be used to model the spread of aerosols in large crowds, further enhancing the scientists’ ability to track virus transmission could occur in concert spaces.
The experiment, scientists claim, will be carried out with the utmost safety for the participants involved — the volunteers will be given a do-it-yourself test kit and be required to get a Covid19 swab before they participate in the experiment. Anyone not able to present a Covid19 negative test will not be able to attend the concert.
“We are trying to find out if there could be a middle way between the old and the new normal that would allow organizers to fit enough people into a concert venue to not make a loss,” Stefan Moritz, the experiment’s coordinator, told The Guardian. The scientists are expecting to assess all data in a months’ time and present their findings in October, right around when parts of Germany are expected to lift the ban on large gatherings.
This experiment marks a unique, creative way to assess how, as lockdowns around the world ease, we can all go back to engaging in activities we love without risking ourselves and others from the currently worsening coronavirus pandemic. Widespread testing and treatment, of course, need to stay a priority, but understanding how to keep large crowds safe from the coronavirus can perhaps make the wait time for a vaccine a bit more bearable.