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Health experts draw up Germany reopening plan

Twenty scientists, health experts and doctors in Germany have created a set of guidelines to enable the gradual return of audiences to cultural and sporting events.

In a paper released on Monday, titled Schrittweise Rückkehr von Zuschauern und Gästen: Ein integrierter Ansatz für Kultur und Sport (Gradual return of spectators and guests: An integrated return to culture and sport), specialists in infectious diseases, virology, ventilation, health economics, sports medicine, culture and law present various models for both and indoor and outdoor events to allow them to reopen safely. Each is based on a basic concept but can be expanded to gradually increase the number of guests per event.

This basic concept, described as stage one in a ‘three-stage plan’ (Drei-Stufen-Plan), is based on an indoor capacity of 25–30% (up to 40% if outdoors), with mandatory face masks and and no food or beverage sales indoors (outside, there should be no F&B sales above 1,000 visitors). There should also be social distancing, achieved by leaving many seats empty.

These rules are the same for attendees, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Beyond the basic model, there are a number of ‘special individual concepts’ depending on the venue or event, with varying hygiene, ventilation and occupancy requirements.

At 100% capacity – the so-called ‘maximum model’ – the guidelines require, among other provisions, digital contact tracing for all attendees, along with mandatory coronavirus tests before entry.

“We need a perspective that gives us hope and incentive”

The concept is supported by a score of major German venues, including Mercedes-Benz Arena/Verti Music Hall in Berlin, Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Olympiapark Munich and Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig, as well as a number of other music and sports organisations, including the the governing bodies of German football, basketball, handball and volleyball.

“This initiative cannot be rated highly enough,” said Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for culture, speaking after the launch of the paper. “We need a perspective that gives us hope and incentive so that we can get away from the appeals to persevere without any prospect of improvement.”

“As soon as it is possible to reopen” venues, “culture, sport and events must be included” in that, he added. (Some experts warn Germany is currently in the midst of a “third wave” of the coronavirus as new mutations spread.)

The head of the German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat), Olaf Zimmermann, says the authors of the plan have provided “a comprehensive concept which could enable spectators and guests to participate in cultural and sporting events under strict hygiene and infection-protection measures”.

“With their concept, the scientists, experts and cultural and sports institutions are, for the first time, presenting a cross-industry, data-based approach […] to the discussion about appropriate ways out of lockdown,” Zimmerman comments. “We want to reopen, and we want to protect the people who visit or work in our facilities from the virus. Both can work – as the concept presented today shows.”

“The scientists, experts and cultural and sports institutions are, for the first time, presenting a cross-industry, data-based approach”

The Event Management Forum, the umbrella organisation founded last year by live music group BDKV and four other events associations, also welcomes the plan – which is similar to the Manifest Restart (Restart Manifesto) it presented earlier this month – but points out that recent studies in Leipzig and Dortmund show that venues can go up to 100% capacity safely, far beyond the 25–30% on which the basic concept is based.

“From the point of view of the Event Management Forum, the concept is not yet suitable for actually enabling a ‘restart’ of event operations,” the forum says in a statement. “[I]t contains a basic model that should enable venues of all sizes to operate with 25 to 30% capacity, while outdoors with up to 40% capacity, while observing basic requirements such as social distancing, hygiene rules and personalised ticketing.”

Whereas, “in the Dortmund aerosol study,” it adds, “a capacity of 100% was considered harmless, provided that the audience in the hall wear masks.”

As for the ‘maximum model’ proposed in the plan, the Event Management Forum points out that venues could safely go to 100% capacity if attendees are tested for the virus before entry, making the other restrictions redundant. “The implementation of suitable tests can enable the utilisation of 100% [of a venue] without further measures if this ensures that only negative, non-infectious visitors are admitted to the respective venue,” the organisation adds.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ IndexIQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Restart-19: “Heroes” simulate Covid-19 spread at test show

The scientists behind the Restart-19 project, who invited thousands of volunteers to take part in three experimental concerts in Germany on Saturday, say the study should provide valuable data about the Covid-19 infection risks posed by large indoor events.

Fifteen hundred people took part in the experiment, held at the Quarterback Immobilien Arena (12,200-cap.) in Leipzig on 22 August as part of Restart-19, a partially publicly funded research project run by the University Hospital in Halle (Universitätsmedizin, UKH).

As IQ reported in July, the study comprised three concerts by singer Tim Bendzko: one with no social distancing at all, pre-coronavirus style; one with “optimised hygiene measures”, such as more entrances/exits and some distance between concertgoers; and one with full social distancing, with attendees seated 1.5 metres apart.

“We are very satisfied. The data acquisition went very well”

While the UKH team initially planned for the experiment to involve 4,000 people, data from the 1,500 volunteers – each of whom was equipped with a tracker device – provided enough information to “work with very well”, says Restart-19 head Dr Stefan Moritz.

For all three scenarios, which took place over ten hours, attendees (who were tested for Covid-19 in advance, and had their temperatures checked prior to entry) were asked to wear a face covering and use hand sanitiser containing fluorescent dye. The dye-laced disinfectant then marked “high-touch” areas when the audience simulated going to the loo or visiting F&B vendors between shows, as requested by Moritz’s team.

“We are very satisfied,” he said on Saturday. “The data acquisition went very well, so we have good quality data; the mood is great; and we are extremely please with how disciplined people have been in wearing the mask and using the [hand] disinfectant.”

Tim Bendzko, Restart-19, Arena Leipzig

Other tests included the use smoke machines to reproduce the spread of aerosols in an indoor arena environment (it is believed the coronavirus can survive in the air for up to three hours) and the simulation of public transport traffic to and from the venue.

“We are excited to see what will come of the study,” says Matthias Kölmel, managing director of arena operator ZSL Betreibergesellschaft, who nevertheless emphasises that “this is not a panacaea.”

In Saxony, of which Leipzig is the most populous city, events of up to 1,000 people are currently permitted with social distancing. In Germany as a whole, a federal ban on non-distanced large-scale gatherings is in place until at least November.

Social distancing (scenario three), Restart-19, Arena Leipzig

Bendzko says he hopes the Restart-19 show can help speed along the return of “real concerts”, for the sake of Germany’s love music industry.

“I hope that the results will help us to play real concerts in front of an audience again soon,” he says, adding that the vast majority of people involved in music and events work in the background, rather than on stage. “We are approaching a major disaster here and we urgently need to find solutions.”

Karsten Günther of SC DHfK Handball, which plays in the arena, pays tribute to the 1,500 people who gave up their Saturdays to be part of the experiment. “[They stood] in the pouring rain outside the venue, waiting to be admitted, then spent ten hours with us during the day, going in and out three times in the heat of the midsummer,” he says. “These are our heroes.”

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

Concert simulations used to restart events in Germany

German scientists are teaming up with singer Tim Bendzko to launch a series of concert simulations and investigate how to prevent Covid-19 from spreading at large events.

Restart-19, which has received €990,000 in funding from the federal states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony, where the country’s first standing post-Covid concerts were trialled last week, will see a series of event simulations take place at the 12,000-capacity Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig on 22 August.

The project is run by the University Medical Centre Halle (Saale) in conjunction with arena operator ZSL mbH and SC DHfK Leipzig handball team, with the aim of identifying a framework for how larger cultural and sports events could be held without posing a danger for the population after Germany’s ban on large-scale events expires.

Bendzko will perform at the arena to those who volunteer to take part in the simulations, in order to reproduce the behaviour of concertgoers as realistically as possible.

The simulations will replicate one event with 4,000 attendees, entering through two main entrances and sitting as prior to the pandemic; one with 4,000 participants with optimised hygiene measures, more entrances and larger distances between participants; and one with 2,000 attendees, who will be seated 1.5 metres apart.

German scientists are launching a series of concert simulations to investigate how to prevent Covid-19 from spreading at large events

All participants will by tested for Covid-19 before taking part and masks and hand sanitisers will be used during the simulations.

Participants will wear a small contact-tracing device during the concert simulations which will transmit a signal every five seconds to record proximity with other individuals, as well as the duration and frequency of contact with others.

The ‘concertgoers’ will also be asked to use a fluorescent hand sanitiser on entry, allowing scientists to use UV lights after the events to identify surfaces where transmission is most likely to occur.

Public transport to and from the venue will also be simulated and tracked as part of the research.

“The coronavirus pandemic is paralysing the events industry,” says Saxony-Anhalt minister of economics and science Prof. Dr. Armin Willingmann.

“As long as infection threatens, neither large concerts and trade fairs, or sporting events can take place. That is why it is so important to find out what technical or organisational framework conditions can effectively minimise the risk of infection.

“With Restart-19 the University Medical Centre Halle is pioneering work for a new start of the events industry in Central Germany and beyond.”

More information about the experiment and how to take part is available here.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.