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Restart-19 results: “Events could take place in a pandemic”

Key findings have been published following an experiment in Germany that aimed to show how coronavirus travels at indoor events

By IQ on 29 Oct 2020

The Restart-19 experiment used a smoke machine to model the spread of aerosols

The Restart-19 experiment used a smoke machine to model the spread of aerosols


Results from Restart-19, a scientific experiment that aimed to show how coronavirus travels at indoor events, have today been published.

The experiment saw scientists invite thousands of volunteers to take part in a concert at the Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig, Germany on 22 August with singer Tim Bendzko.

During the concert, airflow simulations were conducted in conjunction with an engineering company and scientific data was collected by each participant’s contact tracer.

The overview of the key results from the experiment shows that the total number of contacts lasting several minutes is relatively low during the event and can be considerably reduced through hygiene concepts, and that a higher number of contacts occur during admission to the venue and in the breaks.

The scientists also found that poor ventilation can significantly increase the number of people exposed to a risk of infection, but if hygiene concepts are adhered to, additional impacts on the pandemic as a whole are low to very low.

The research project, which is a partially publicly funded, was run by Dr Stefan Moritz of University Medicine Halle (Saale) at the University Hospital in Halle (Universitätsmedizin, UKH), who deemed the experiment “an absolute success”.

“The results are consistent with our hypothesis that the contacts that do occur at an event do not involve all participants,” says Dr Moritz. “Therefore, events could also take place under specific conditions during a pandemic. The most important finding for us was understanding how crucial it is to have good ventilation technology. This is key to lowering the risk of infection.”

“Together with this engineering company, we recreated the entire Quarterback Immobilien Arena as a computer model and divided it into small cubes. We then simulated how different ventilation scenarios affected the distribution of the aerosol particles,” Moritz explains.

“Contacts that occur at an event do not involve all participants, so events could take place under specific conditions during a pandemic”

“We developed a detailed epidemiological simulation model in order to investigate the effects of transmission on the spread of the epidemic throughout the population as a whole,” explains professor Rafael Mikolajczyk from the Institute of Medical Epidemiology, Biometrics and Informatics in the University of Halle’s Faculty of Medicine. “We drew on existing models of pandemic planning and adapted them accordingly.”

Based on their findings, the researchers have recommended that event venues provide adequate ventilation and a regular exchange of air and that an evaluation system for suitable ventilation technology is formed.

The scientists have also recommended that hygiene concepts remain for as long as the pandemic persists including compulsory use of face masks in the arena.

Results from the survey conducted after the experiment showed that 90% of the study participants are not put off by the idea of wearing a mask and are willing to continue to do so in order to be able to experience such events again.

Researchers have also suggested that the seating plan and thus the number of guests should be adjusted based on incidence and the venue should be accessed through several entrances to direct visitor flows. While, waiting areas should be moved outdoors and during the event, food should be eaten in the seating areas to prevent crowding and long periods of contact at snack bars, they add.

Minister of Science, professor Armin Willingmann, says: “The corona pandemic is currently intensifying throughout Germany. This reality makes what we learn from Restart-19 all the more valuable. The events industry, in particular, must be equipped with the knowledge and strategies it needs to be able to responsibly organise concerts, festivals and trade fairs despite corona.

“The researchers at University Medicine Halle have done real pioneering work here on behalf of the states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony – even though the road to a new normal is very long.”

 


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