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Pol’and’Rock triumphs over “huge logistical undertaking”

Pol’and’Rock says it has “introduced a blueprint for holding events in the new normal,” following the successful 27th edition of the Polish festival.

The festival, which took place exclusively online last year, made its in-person return between 29–31 July at a brand new location, Makowice airfield.

Typically, Pol’and’Rock attracts an audience of almost half a million people each year but this year organisers were forced to whittle down the attendance to 20,000 domestic and international visitors.

Despite the festival’s reduced size, organisers said this year’s edition required a “massive logistical undertaking” due to on-site testing procedures for staff, artists and participants.

According to organisers, Pol’and’Rock were the only event in Poland that introduced the additional Covid-19 safety measure of rapid testing in addition to the requirement of vaccination certificates, which Poland has been quick to implement.

“It seems that our festival played an important role in promoting vaccination among the young people”

Tests were charged to participants at a cost of 49 Polish zlotys, the equivalent of a little more than €10. Otherwise, the festival remained free.

“We have not yet witnessed any increase in infections following the event,” says Pol’and’Rock’s Olga Zawada. “Even though we were faced with a wave of criticism from organized groups of anti-vaxxer trolls, it seems that our festival played an important role in promoting vaccination among the young people, who otherwise were reluctant to look into it.”

Other Covid-19 safety measures included the requirement of masks during concerts and, for the first time, the event was ticketed in order to control the flow of visitors.

Fans who couldn’t attend in person were able to watch the festival online for free.

The festival – also known as the ‘Woodstock of Poland’ – featured performances from international artists, as well as talks and workshops from social activists, artists, media personalities, sportspeople and NGOs.

 


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Germany’s Fusion ploughs ahead with testing plan

Germany’s Fusion Festival is determined to forge ahead with its 2021 edition by following an extensive testing plan, which is currently being examined by authorities.

The organisers hope to host 35,000 visitors between 24–27 June and 1–4 July at the Mecklenburg Lake District in Lärz, using their ‘innovative strategy of PCR mass testing’.

The strategy would require all ticket holders to take two PCR tests – one on the day before arrival and one during the festival.

In order to do this, the organisers plan to set up preliminary testing stations and laboratories in Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig for attendees on the way to the festival.

There, a sample batch will be evaluated in the laboratory within 70–90 minutes and the results are transmitted to the Fusion Festival’s ticket system before attendees’ arrival.

Alternatively, festivalgoers can be tested at the festival’s Lärz centre, in the southeastern area of ​​the airfield, which could test up to 15,000 visitors within twelve hours.

The Lärz test centre will also have parking spaces, as well as waiting areas for those arriving on the shuttle bus, where attendees can wait for up to 90 minutes for the results of their test.

The festival has since raised the ticket price from €130 to €220 due to the cost of mass testing

Only those who test negative will be permitted to enter the festival and those who are attending both days will be required to take another PCR test on the Sunday morning. If the result is negative, the access wristbands will be reactivated. Festival employees will have to follow a similar protocol.

Social distancing and mask wearing will not be mandatory, according to the testing plan, and the organisers have also said that they may consider proof of vaccination upon entry to relieve the PCR testing facilities.

Last year, the organisers made the decision to split the festival over two weekends and have half as many visitors at a time. The festival has since raised the ticket price from €130 to €220 due to the cost of mass testing.

In a statement on the festival’s website, the organisers explain the hike in price: “This concept was not included in the calculation [of the festival]. In contrast to profit-oriented organisers, we don’t want to spare any costs or efforts to make the merger possible and to fight for freedoms. We don’t yet know whether or how it will refinance in the end, but we firmly believe that this will not fail because of the money.

“We ask politicians to actively promote and financially support progressive test concepts like the one we have developed. Culture in pandemic times needs state funding. The federal and state governments have slept through innovative test strategies so far. Massive PCR tests are more sustainable for festivals than the often promised compensation for downtime costs.”

Read Fusion Festival’s full testing plan and FAQs here.

 


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Albanian gov approves rapid testing for Unum 2021

Unum Festival has secured permission from the Albanian government to use rapid Covid testing for next year’s edition, which organisers say will eliminate the need for social distancing.

The festival is scheduled to return to the beaches and forests of Shengjin on the Albanian Riviera between 3–7 June 2021 and is expecting between 8-10,000 people from local and international markets to attend.

According to Grego O’Halloran, director of Unum Festival, 100% of people attending the 2021 edition will be tested including attendees, artists, staff and volunteers on-site at the festival – a procedure which will extend to the partner hotels where guests are hosted, drivers and in-resort representatives.

The festival has partnered with UK company Swallow Events which offers the 15-minute Roche lateral flow test with 99.68% specificity for the rapid tests but is still developing “a fully robust” testing procedure with government-approved protocols and health and safety risk assessments.

“The advancing technology and accuracy of rapid tests will ensure you can enjoy the festival in the way it should be enjoyed”

The festival’s duration, plus the on-site/off-site factor, presents logistical challenges with consistent testing but organisers say the procedure will include multiple tests and verification/identification software prior to gaining access to the festival and again at the site’s entry points.

“The advancing technology and accuracy of rapid tests currently allows for results within 10-15 minutes, which is all that would be required to ensure you can enjoy the festival in the way it should be enjoyed,” says O’Halloran. “On top of that, vaccines will likely have arrived early next year so that plans for this small, perfectly formed festival are now well underway, all with the support and backing of the Albanian government.”

Blendi Klosi, Albania’s minister for tourism, says: “We are looking forward to the return of Unum Festival and events in general to Albania in 2021, which will operate in a safe and secure manner thanks to the coming vaccine and rapid testing solution.”

The festival has already announced a number of domestic and international artists for its second edition including Cap, Cesar Merveille, Digby, DJ Rease, Dyed Soudorom, Franco Cinelli, Hajdar Berisha and Seth Troxler.

Second release five-day passes are currently €139.

 


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Shoot for the moon: Covid testing solutions for live

The desire of people to gather together, uninhibited, to see their favourite act or to discover a new band has never been greater, thanks to the coronavirus restrictions that have banned mass gatherings for the greater part of 2020.

With no end in sight to defeating the plague, the live events sector is exploring the possibility of opening its doors to fans who test negatively for Covid-19, and thankfully there are a growing number of companies around the world who are developing testing kits and protocols that might just allow promoters, festivals and venues to kickstart their businesses in the not too distant future.

Much as 2020 has been a year to forget, it’s likely to remain at the forefront of our minds for many years to come as a 21st-century reminder of how a virus can disrupt the lives of billions of people and bring everyday life to a shuddering halt.

The UK government’s chief of test and trace, Baroness Dido Harding, recently said that on-the-spot tests might have to be the cost of doing business for venues and event organisers. Given the project name Operation Moonshot, the plan would involve businesses paying for mass Covid-testing schemes, but they could prove vital if hopes to test up to 10 million people each day are to come to fruition.

However, with tests currently priced in the region of £30 per swab and some systems requiring significant infrastructure investment, innovators around the world are working hard on new rapid testing methods to bring costs down in an effort to make mass testing viable.

Now, IQ looks at some of systems developed in the UK (please note that being featured here does not necessarily mean these tests are approved for use in all territories).

 


Chronomics
Noting the possibility that a vaccine could be 12-18 months away, Chronomics states that the ‘new normal’ could be in place until 2024, leading to the company’s development of a simple spit test for coronavirus that can be used for mass testing.

The Chronomics Covid-19 saliva testing kit is easy to use and painless, and can be sent to people’s homes rather than requiring members of the public to attend hospitals, labs or testing centres. Completed tests can be courier-collected and brought to Chronomics labs for testing.

The Chronomics test is highly specific to SARS-CoV-2, meaning it won’t be confounded by other human viruses, and it will detect all strains of the virus that have evolved to date.

Although the company has not divulged pricing, it claims that the test analysis can be automated, making it scalable for mass testing. As a result, Chronomics is marketing its testing system to companies, hospitals, laboratories and governments around the world.

The test can be sent to homes rather than requiring members of the public to attend hospitals, labs or testing centres

DNANudge
London-based DNANudge takes nostril swabs and can scan for the coronavirus in just 75 minutes, thanks to a handheld device that analyses the swab.

The test, developed by Imperial College London’s Chris Toumazou, is based on the design of a DNA test, but significantly cuts down on the 48-hour wait for a laboratory diagnosis.

The company quotes £28 (€31) per test on average, and the UK government has reportedly ordered 5.8 million tests, plus 5,000 of the portable machines, as part of a £161million (€177m) contract.

DNANudge claims its tests can also detect mild and asymptomatic cases of the virus. It boasts 100% specificity, meaning it can tell the difference between a person who doesn’t have Covid-19 and a sample that was not correctly processed, thereby eliminating the possibility of any false negative results.

The DNANudge ‘lab in a cartridge’ machines are reportedly limited to 15 tests each, per day.

DNANudge takes nostril swabs and can scan for the coronavirus in just 75 minutes, thanks to a handheld device

LamPORE
Biotech company Oxford Nanopore has developed portable swab-recording machines that use the firm’s LamPORE tests and can determine whether a user has Covid. The devices, which are the size of desktop printers, take 90 minutes to give a result and can process more than 9,000 samples a day.

The LamPORE procedure involves taking a sample of saliva, which can be barcoded, analysed and recorded by the devices. Analysis must be done in a laboratory, but the company’s labs can be mobile and installed into vehicles or pop-up test sites, with a portable version of the LamPORE device measuring around the same size as a CD player.

The UK government has ordered 450,000 of the tests for trial, but millions more could be purchased if those trials prove fruitful. The Oxford Nanopore Diagnostics LamPORE Covid-19 Test Kit 96 Plex is intended for use by trained laboratory personnel experienced in the conduct of in vitro diagnostic procedures.

The devices, which are the size of desktop printers, take 90 minutes to give a result and can process 9,000+ samples a day

HALO
The Halo team is led by EpiPen inventor Craig Rochford, alongside biotech and computer scientists from Oxford University. Halo says it is already working with a number of professional services, transport and other organisations to roll out its testing services.

Halo’s saliva test kit allows people to test at home by spitting into a tube and sending the sample off for processing. The company says it can turn around results in as little as seven hours and claims 100% accuracy. Test results are communicated through a phone app.

At press time, Halo says it can process more than 250,000 tests per week in a testing module. The company has a lab at Imperial College London, but says its capacity can be quickly increased by scaling up its number of labs. Prices are believed to be lower than £25 (€28) per kit.

The Halo test is similar, but less invasive, to the PCR test used globally for testing people for the coronavirus using a swab. Halo purifies the genetic material from saliva and uses polymerase chain reaction to detect the virus in a lab. The company claims people should never get a false positive result if they don’t have the virus.

Halo’s first customer was a UK university, but it is also reportedly in discussions with a global airline, a medical research facility, and a variety of financial institutions and businesses.

The company says it can turn around results in as little as seven hours and claims 100% accuracy

Nonacus
During the current pandemic, Nonacus has diverted resources and expertise into developing simple, low-cost and scalable testing products for Sars-CoV-2. These products are only available for testing laboratories or third-party providers who wish to use the Nonacus service facility.

Earlier this year, the UK-based company’s Covid-19 spit test received a share of a £40million (€44m) government grant to speed up development work. The test involves spitting into a tube, which can be delivered to individual homes. The test is then sealed and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Nonacus says samples can be examined by a significantly higher and broader number of labs than those processing existing swabs because a solution in the bottom of the tube inactivates the coronavirus, avoiding potential contamination or spread of the virus.
Chris Sale, CEO and co-founder of Nonacus, says the government grant is being utilised to make the product commercially available later this year.

The Covid-19 spit test received a share of a £40million (€44m) government grant to speed up development work

OptiGene
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, biomedical company OptiGene has developed a swab test that takes just 20 minutes to diagnose people.

The system requires patients to undertake nasal and throat swabs, which can subsequently be loaded into the company’s automated Genie HT machines, which can detect tiny traces of the virus in a patient’s DNA.

The Genie HT devices use chemicals to amplify the DNA billions of times so that any sign of Covid-19 can be identified with extreme sensitivity. The machines can also reportedly be used with saliva samples, potentially meaning a less invasive testing procedure.

In contrast to the widely used PCR tests, which require processes to be conducted at different temperatures and have a slow turnaround time,theGenieHTdoesnot require a change in temperature, allowing it to deliver results in as quick as 20 minutes.

The OptiGene system is being trialled by the UK government in a number of hospital accident and emergency departments, doctors’ surgeriesandcarehomesinEngland.

OptiGene has developed a swab test that takes just 20 minutes to diagnose people

Randox
Developed by Northern Ireland-based healthcare specialists, Randox, the portable Vivalytic antigen testing system takes around 12 minutes to process results.

The device relies on nasal and oral mouth swabs and, operated by a healthcare professional, each machine can deal with five swabs per hour. Randox says its device works by “identifying SARS-CoV-2 and differentiating it from nine other respiratory infections with similar symptoms, including influenza and all known coronaviruses.”

It is thought the Vivalytic devices are still in the trial stage, but they have reportedly been introduced in multiple hospitals across
Northern Ireland.

In July, hundreds of thousands of swabs were recalled after they failed rigorous safety requirements. However, Randox said the problem was with the swab supplier, rather than its testing procedures, and the machines that carry out the tests were not found to be unsafe.

The portable Vivalytic antigen testing system takes around 12 minutes to process results

Rapid Lamp Testing
Rapid Lamp Testing was established in May this year when its founders took an interest in Melvin Benn’s full-capacity plan but quickly realised the existing tech and testing would not support those ambitions.

Rapid Lamp Testing, it says, meets the accuracy criteria of the full-cap plan through a combination of highly accurate early-stage testing and encrypted data management to allow gatherings of people in safety, with a temporary suspension of social distancing, if needed.

In addition to the testing protocol, Rapid Lamp Testing can provide event management support through the monitoring of squads and support staff in a secure working bubble.

The Rapid Lamp Testing process does not need laboratory conditions – the company says testing can be done at venues – and results can be returned in 45 minutes. Those results can be delivered via an app.

The company says its specificity is 100%, with zero chance of false negatives, while the test sensitivity can detect one virus-cell per micro-litre of test liquid.

It has been working with film production companies, #wemakeevents planning, athletics meetings, and commercial occupational health companies.

Its point-of-care-testing analytical machines cost £9,000–15,000 (€9,920– 16,530) depending on spec, while test kits are priced at £38–40 (€41–44) per test, with self-testing a possibility when its saliva test is developed.

The test was established in May this year when its founders took an interest in Melvin Benn’s full-capacity plan

Samba II
Developed by University of Cambridge spin-off company, Diagnostics for the Real World, Samba II is a nose-and-throat swab that claims to have a testing turnaround time of 90 minutes.

The portable machines required to process the swabs have a capacity limit of 15 tests per day but the 90-minute analysis time places them ahead of a number of competing Covid-testing systems. Priced at £30 (€33) per test, Samba II is reportedly 99% accurate through its ability to scour DNA in the throat and nose to detect the virus.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge has been trialling the device since April, and its success rate has resulted in the hospital switching the majority of its coronavirus testing to the Samba machine system.

The tests have been validated by Public Health England and shown to have 98.7% sensitivity and 100% specificity, while the Samba devices are already used to diagnose other blood-borne diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

Samba II is a nose-and-throat swab that claims to have a testing turnaround time of 90 minutes

Virolens
Already touted as a potential solution for stadia and arenas, Virolens has been trialled at Europe’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, prompting the airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, to urge UK government to fast-track clinical trials to speed its adoption for widespread use.

Virolens uses a digital camera attached to a microscope to analyse saliva samples, and delivers results in a remarkable 20 seconds.

Developed by British start–up iAbra, Virolens uses technology powered by Intel, and does not require medically trained operatives. People swab saliva from their mouth before placing the sample in a cartridge that can be immediately analysed by the Virolens device, dispensing of the need for a laboratory.

The Virolens system reportedly has a 99.8% sensitivity, which means almost every single person who tests positive is truly infected, and there are no false negatives.

At the same time, it reportedly has 96.7% specificity, meaning three in every 100 people might get a false positive result stating they have the virus when they do not. Those results, at the doors of a venue, for instance, might merit more thorough testing before access was denied.

Virolens says its screening devices can each carry out hundreds of tests per day and it is believed the company is in the process of manufacturing thousands of the testing machines.

 


 


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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Covid dogs sniff out virus in Helsinki

The professor behind a groundbreaking pilot scheme exploring whether dogs may be used to detect coronavirus in humans, currently underway in Finland, has said the testing method could become a cheap, quick way to detect the presence of Covid-19 in attendees to sporting and cultural events.

Trained scent-detection dogs have been deployed at Finland’s main international airport, Helsinki-Vantaa, as part of a state-financed trial led by the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

The four-month trial, which began on Wednesday (23 September), hopes to prove researchers’ theory that having dogs sniff for coronavirus – the trained canines can apparently smell the presence of Covid-19 on a wipe passed over an infected person’s skin – is even more reliable than a PCR test, currently the most commonly used test for the disease.

“This will be a good screening method at many other places”

According to the university, dogs can detect the presence coronavirus from a “significantly lower” amount of virus than PCR tests, allowing them to identify Covid-19 in humans earlier than laboratory tests. Research has also found that, unlike lab tests, a dog’s nose can identify infection in asymptomatic people.

Anna Hielm-Björk­man, a professor of equine and small-animal medicine at the university, tells the Press Association that, should the trial be a success, “it will be a good screening method at many other places”, including cultural events, sports venues and old people’s homes.

The Finnish pilot is the first in Europe and the second in the world, after a similar scheme recently introduced in Dubai.

According to Timo Aronkyto, the deputy mayor of Vantaa, where the airport is located, the programme is costing just 300,000. This, he tells PA, is significantly less than than other methods of mass testing new arrivals.

 


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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Fans are Back: UK firms present Covid pass to PM

Following Wednesday’s much-discussed press briefing, a consortium of UK companies has presented prime minister Boris Johnson with a Covid-19 testing solution that aims to get fans back into entertainment and sports venues.

Described as an “end-to-end, 360-degree” testing and technology solution, Fans are Back was conceived by Manchester-based tech company VST Enterprises Ltd (VSTE), sports marketing consultancy Redstrike, event safety specialist Halo and occupational health provider Latus Health.

It incorporates Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and a health ‘passport’, and follows Johnson’s suggestion earlier this week that venues could be allowed to open without social distancing through a combination of mass testing and passes/passports certifying attendees’ healthiness.

The plan – which has already been put in front of both Johnson and the British government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee – involves the use of 10-minute rapid test kits and a secure digital health passport that authorises a person’s identity and their Covid-19 test status.

A built-in track-and-trace app, part of VSTE’s existing VHealth Passport infrastructure, uses anonymised data to detect positive infection contacts in venues, stadia and theatres.

“Concert venues, sports stadia and theatres cannot survive much longer without an end-to-end solution”

VSTE’s CEO, Louis-James Davis, comments: “VHealth Passport is the unique 360-degree solution in getting all music venues, concerts, sports stadia and theatres back to full capacity securely and safely without the need to social distance.

“We know that while social-distancing pilots have worked, they cannot be sustained in the long term because of the financial economics of not having fans present. A regime of rapid testing alongside existing PCR-based tests is the only way we can progress forward, and was in tune with how the prime minister outlined the government’s plan for mass testing. This is vital not just for the British economy, but our entire way of life.

“Concert venues, sports stadia and theatres cannot survive much longer without an end-to-end solution that is safe and secure…”

The Fans are Back plan has won the backing of former sports minister Richard Caborn, as well as Olympians and royals Mike and Zara Tindall (the Queen’s granddaughter).

Davis is optimistic his solution will have greater take-up than the government’s own contact-tracing app, pointing to the fact that music fans will be incentivised to get tested in order to attend concerts again.

The Fans are Back solution incorporates Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and a health passport

“The UK government’s NHS contact-tracing app had a number of issues, from privacy and security through to false flag alerts and a general apathy by the public to engage,” he continues. “Put simply, there was no incentive for the public to engage and adopt the ‘track-and-trace’ system.

“The reason why the VHealth Passport will have greater engagement with the public is simply down to incentive. We engage with audiences to adopt testing and passporting and incentivise their attendance.

“If a music or sports fan or theatregoer wants to attend an event, then they will only be allowed into that venue having taken a Covid-19 test prior to their arrival and their negative test result uploaded to a valid VHealth Passport by a qualified health care professional and scanned upon entry.”

Five months in development, the test and passport combination is priced at £15 (€16.20). VSTE currently has 200 testing centres in its app, and says it expects this to rise to more than 1,000 in the coming weeks.

 


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