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Data from the Back to Live pilot programme gives the Dutch government “the key to give the green light for the festival summer”
By Jon Chapple on 28 May 2021
The findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home, organiser Fieldlab Evenementen has revealed.
Fieldlab – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, including the pan-industry Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers (Alliance of Event Builders) – kicked off its Back to Live series of test events in February, with the most recent event, the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, taking place on 22 May with 3,500 fans in attendance. Other Fieldlab events included business conferences, festivals, arena shows, an awards ceremony and outdoor sports events in a range of formats and capacities.
The results from the first phase of the Back to Live pilots – all small, ‘type-one’ events with assigned seats, including a conference and a comedy show – were released in April, and showed that these types of events are safe without social distancing at 50% capacity.
More significantly, the findings released this week by Fieldlab, which draw on events such as a 1,300-person arena show and two 1,500-person festivals and organised by promoters Mojo and ID&T, conclude that shows may return safely at 100% capacity, even under the Netherlands’ ‘concern’ (zorgelijk) coronavirus risk level.
Based on Fieldlab’s research, led by Prof. Andreas Voss of the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, the organisation has now issued a series of recommendations, or a ‘matrix’, to the Dutch government demonstrating how festivals and other live events can be held safely this summer. A final report, which will also include infection figures from Eurovision, will be issued in the coming weeks.
“We can now open, and as an industry need never be completely closed again”
According to the Back to Live data, 100%-capacity events are possible under the Netherlands’ lower two risk levels (caution and concern), with a reduction in capacity necessary for levels three and four (serious and severe, respectively).
By risk level, Fieldlab’s recommendations are:
Riemer Rijpkema, a spokesperson for corporate events association Eventplatform and deputy chair of Fieldlab’s steering group, calls on the Dutch government to act on Fieldlab’s conclusions. “Fieldlab Evenementen have delivered great results to the cabinet, as well as concrete tools on how to act in each phase of the pandemic. We call on the members of the cabinet to adopt this matrix, embrace and use it for reformulating the regulations.
“There is a wealth of information from which one can learn in both the short and long term. We can now open, and as an industry need never be completely closed again.”
“Provided you take the right measures, the risk of getting infected at a Fieldlab event is the same as at home”
Willem Westermann of the Alliance of Event Builders, which represents live entertainment and sports professionals, adds: “The cabinet now has in their hands the key to to give the green light for the festival summer. The Fieldlab researchers have shown that this can be done, with additional measures and if we consider the risk level.
“Practical tests have shown that visitors are quite prepared, for example, to cooperate by having a rapid test beforehand. If the infrastructure for testing is properly put in place and the cabinet endorses these conclusions, there is almost nothing in the way of a great summer for the events industry.”
While the majority of Dutch regions are still in level four (severe), this should come down as the Netherlands’ vaccine roll-out continues. The government’s most recent weekly report on infection figures, issued on Tuesday (25 May), shows a “steady” downward trend in new cases of Covid-19.
Speaking to local broadcaster RTV Rijnmond, Fieldlab’s Dimitri Bonthuis says the team are “very happy with the results” from the Back to Live events. “It is absolutely good news,” he says. “Provided you take the right measures, the risk of getting infected at a Fieldlab event is the same as at home.”
The Fieldlab results follow similar positive data out of studies in the UK, Spain and Germany, all of which showed that live events do not pose a risk to public health while Covid-19 is still a threat.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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