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Scientists hosted a concert for 1,400 people to test the spread of the coronavirus

German singer Tim Bendzko’s show was part of an experiment seeking to identify transmission hot spots in music venues

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

Concert venues were among the first places to close back in March, and no doubt they’ll be among the last to reopen.

But a group of researchers in Germany wants to make sure that happens sooner rather than later. On Saturday morning, they put on an IRL concert in Leipzig to test the spread of the coronavirus during indoor events, and it is hoped the results could eventually help the global live music industry get back on its feet.

As part of the ‘Restart-19’ experiment, scientists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg invited 1,400 volunteers to a concert by German singer Tim Bendzko, who played with a full band and backing singers to a cordoned-off section of the city’s Quarterback Immobilien Arena.

To reduce the risk of transmission during the experiment, each attendee was tested for coronavirus beforehand, had their temperature checked on arrival, and was asked to wear masks throughout. They were also provided with fluorescent hand disinfectant so researchers could later identify high-touch surfaces.

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Three different scenarios were then simulated over ten hours: one with no social distancing, another with moderate measures in place, and a third with strict ones. Volunteers were also asked to simulate trips to the bathroom and to food and drink vendors during breaks between each of Bendzko’s performances.

The trackers allowed the scientists to identify patterns in how often attendees came close to each other, and ultraviolet lamps were used to pinpoint the most-likely-to-be-contaminated surfaces.

The team, led by Stefan Moritz of the university’s infectious diseases department, told The New York Times they hope the study could be used to draw up distancing and hygiene guidelines for live music venues and promoters around the world.

For music fans increasingly disillusioned with live-stream culture – if they were ever really into it in the first place – that’s very good news indeed.

How cities are adapting:

Paris has become one giant café terrace

Madrid staged a socially-distanced opera

Singapore has gone bananas for home farming

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