Final fieldlab experiments test whether festivals can be held safely during covid
Biddinghuizen in the province of Flevoland welcomed festival visitors again on Saturday for the first time in a year. The seventh and penultimate trial event was held on the event site of theme park Walibi Holland. About 1,500 visitors were allowed to party and dance at a dance festival after a negative corona test.
The so-called fieldlabs are intended as experiments to show whether events during corona time can take place safely. A pop festival will also be organized on the event site Sunday. The festivals were supposed to take place last weekend, but were postponed due to the predicted heavy gusts of wind and rain.
Visitors are tested in advance and some have to take an extra quick test when entering the site. Anyone who tests positive for corona is not allowed on the site. Festivalgoers are then divided into three groups and equipped with a device with which their movements and contact moments are monitored.
That box keeps track of who a visitor has contact with, how long that is and at what distance. The researchers then try to deduce an average number of contacts from this data.
New corona app
This weekend, a new government corona app was also tested at the fieldlab experiments which visitors can use to demonstrate that they have recently been tested negative. After a negative test, the visitors receive a code that they can enter in the app. It generates a QR code that is scanned at the entrance of the festival.
More than 6,200 people participated in the previous six fieldlabs. Forty-one of them tested positive asymptomatically beforehand, meaning that they had contracted the coronavirus but showed no symptoms. They were not allowed to participate in the event.
Afterward, five people were tested positive, says medical microbiologist Andreas Voss, lead researcher of the Fieldlab program. It is difficult to say whether those five were contaminated during one of the field lab events, said the researcher. According to him, it is also conceivable that the participants were infected at home afterward, for example, by housemates.
Voss is positive about the results so far. According to the researcher, pre-testing is therefore crucial when society will soon be more open again. "It gives us the opportunity to make more things possible, even before everyone in the Netherlands has been vaccinated."
According to Voss, with pre-testing in the summer, it should be possible to organize concerts, theater, and cinema visits on a limited scale with certain measures. "If the numbers are going down again and the threat of the third wave is less, then this should certainly be safely possible."
Voss is a bit more skeptical about festivals; the investigation has yet to show whether this is safely possible. A festival, says Voss, is riskier because of the large number of movements and contact moments. After all, more contact moments mean a greater chance of contamination. On the other hand, according to the researcher, it does help that festivals are often in the open air and there is, therefore, a lot of ventilation.
Previous fieldlab tests have taken place during two concerts in the Ziggo Dome, a theater performance by Guido Weijers, a conference, and at football matches. The researchers expect to publish the results in three weeks.