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German Study Reveals "Low to Very Low" Risk of COVID-19 Spread At Indoor Gigs, If Proper Safety Precautions Are Met


In August, we reported of a German study where 1,500 people gathered in the city of Leipzig for a live performance from singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko. Fans in attendance were given respiratory face masks, fluorescent hand gel and "contract tracker" transmitters, which "determine the contact rates and contact distances of the individual experiment participants." Well, the results of the study have been revealed and they are very promising for the future of concerts.

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The study was conducted by scientists from Halle University. They offered the concert attendees contact trackers that monitored the number of "critical contacts" each participant had. Fans were given fluorescent hand gel to help identify frequently touched surfaces. The intent was to get large gatherings back.

Three scenarios were run according to CNN, "one that simulated a concert pre-coronavirus, a second simulating a concert during the pandemic, with improved hygiene measures in place, and a third, with reduced participants."

The result of the study is that risk of transmission is "low" as long as attendees follow good hygiene practices, the venue limits capacity and there is good ventilation.

“There is no argument for not having such a concert,” scientist Dr. Michael Gekle told The New York Times. “The risk of getting infected is very low.” The Times reports points to one important factor: proper ventilation.

In one model, jet nozzles on the roof above the arena’s highest rows sent fresh air through to the inner floor of the arena. In another, fresh air was sucked into the arena from the rooftop and the jet nozzles were switched off.

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Computer modeling found that 10 times as many people would be exposed to an infectious person’s aerosols in the second scenario compared with the first, suggesting that regular circulation of air decreased the density of any viruses in aerosols, the researchers said. Social distancing further decreased exposure to the aerosols, they said.

“We knew that ventilation was important but we didn’t expect it to be that important,” said Dr. Gekle.

The simulation also found that prolonged contact — of at least several minutes — was the highest during breaks in programming, and when audience members entered the venue.

But Paul Linden, a professor of fluid mechanics at University of Cambridge, said that the computer modeling had not taken into account factors such as heat rising from an audience or indoor air turbulence, and that it was difficult to pinpoint whether it was the pattern of air flow or less ventilation in the venue that led to increased exposure to aerosols. As a general rule, he added, venues needed to bring in as much clean air as possible to lower transmission rates.

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In addition to proper ventilation technology, and air exchange, the scientists recommend seated food and drink breaks, making masks mandatory and offering multiple entrances for attendees.

According to the Times, some experts are skeptical about the findings and feel that more studies should be done before any concrete decisions are made. Researchers in other countries are working on similar studies.

You can view the entire study here.

With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down any sort of live entertainment, it's hard to get a gauge on when a return to any sense of normalcy will be. When will there be shows again? Will they be social distancing? Will mosh pits ever be permitted again? Live Nation has said artists will have to take lower guarantees for future shows.

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