Road to recovery: A timeline of pilot projects
In August 2020, Germany paved the way for live music pilot projects with Restart-19, an experiment which saw thousands of volunteers to take part in a concert at the Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig with singer Tim Bendzko.
Since then, similar experiments have popped up across the globe. From Spain to Singapore, test events with as few as 50 participants and as many as 5,000 have taken place to prove to authorities (and the world) that when it comes to safety and security, the live music industry knows what it’s doing.
Below is a timeline of the pilot projects that have taken place since late summer 2020 – all of which have proved, in one way or another, that the live entertainment sector can reopen safely under certain measures – as well as the tests that are on the horizon in 2021.
When: 22 August 2020
Where: Quarterback Immobilien Arena, Leipzig, Germany
Who: University Medical Center of Halle
What they said: “[T]he contacts that do occur at an event do not involve all participants. Therefore, events could take place under specific conditions during a pandemic.”
Konzerthaus Dortmund (study)
When: 2–3, 20 November 2020
Where: Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany
Who: Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute Goslar, ParteQ
What they said: “Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection. […] With our study, we want to ensure that concert halls and theatres may again admit sufficient audiences when they reopen.”
When: 12 December 2020
Where: Apolo, Barcelona, Spain
Who: Primavera Sound, Germans Trias Hospital, the Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation
What they said: “A live music concert, staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for Sars- CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections.”
Philharmonie de Paris (study)
When: 16 December 2020
Where: Philharmonie de Paris, France
Who: Dassault Systèmes
What they said: “The combination of face masks with a fresh-air supply built into every seat gives the indoor Philharmonie a similar profile to that of an outdoor space, with a very limited risk of spread from one side [of the venue] to the other.”
Back to Live (SG)
When: 18–19 December 2020 Where: Sands Theatre, Marina Bay, Singapore
Who: AEG Presents, Collective Minds
What they said: “[T]he outcome of such pilots will be critical to our ongoing efforts to allow events of a larger scale to resume in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Because Music Matters
When: 10–14 February
Where: Rockhal, Luxembourg
What they said: “Building confidence among all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important.”
Participants: 100 per night
Back to Live (NL)
When: 15, 20, 21, 28 February & 6, 7, 20, 21 March 2021
Where: The Netherlands
Who: Fieldlab Evenementen
What they said: “We can now show that we can organise events in a very safe way. […] We hope this can lead to a tailor- made reopening of venues.”
Participants: Varies between events
Love of Lesbian
When: 27 March 2021
Where: Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona
Who: Festivals per la Cultura Segura
What they said: The event had no impact on Covid-19 transmission among attendees, despite the lack of social distancing observed.
The Berlin Philharmonic
When: 20 March 2021
Where: Chamber Music Hall, Berlin
Who: Pilotprojekt, Berlin department of culture
What they said: ‘Zero infections among the 1,000 people who attended the show is further proof that events can be organised safely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.’
Jonathan theatre performance
When: 26 April–9 May 2021
Where: Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS), Belgium
Who: KVS and Belgium’s Ministry of Culture
What they said: “An important observation is that the CO2 value and the relative humidity have barely increased. We saw the figure increase from 500 ppm to 600 ppm, while the maximum permitted value is 1200 ppm. This is of course only a first indication.”
Events Research Programme
When: April/May 2021
Where: Sefton Park and Bramley-Moore Dock in Liverpool, Brit Awards in London, The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and more
Who: Festival Republic, Circus, BPI, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and more
What they said: “These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing. We will be guided by the science and medical experts but will work flat out to make that happen.”
When: TBC 2021
Who: Dansk Live, Divisionsforeningen
What they said: “This should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many great concert experiences across the country in 2021.”
When: TBC 2021
Where: Accor Arena, Paris
Who: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture, St Louis Hospital, Prodiss
When: TBC 2021
Where: Dôme, Marseille
Who: The city of Marseille, Inserm, Béatrice Desgranges (Marsatac, SMA)
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Germany kicks off new pilot show series in Berlin
Germany kicked off its latest project to test the safety of live events amid the ongoing pandemic over the weekend, with the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra playing to an audience of 1,000 people in Berlin.
The show on Saturday (20 March) was the second event in a pilot programme (Pilotprojekt) being held across the German capital from 19 March to 4 April. The first, a performance by the Berliner Ensemble theatre company, took place the day before; seven further events will be staged at Berlin theatres, opera houses, concert halls and a nightclub.
The new pilot project is the latest scientific study out of Germany looking at the effect concerts have the transmission of Covid-19, following the influential Restart-19 study and a later test show at Dortmund’s Konzerthaus, both of which showed live entertainment could take place safely in a pandemic situation.
Of the 1,000 concertgoers, nearly half were tested on site in the space of 90 minutes
The Berlin Philharmonic concert, which saw the orchestra perform Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 2 at the 1,180-seat Chamber Music Hall, was also attended by 45 medical professionals, including three doctors, according to public broadcaster RBB. Of the 1,000 concertgoers, nearly half were tested on site in the space of 90 minutes, while the remaining 520 were required to bring a negative Covid-19 test from an off-site test centre.
In addition to testing negative for coronavirus, attendees – who included Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for culture – were required to wear face coverings at all times.
Despite a successful launch for the Pilotprojekt, chancellor Angela Merkel announced today (23 March) that Germans will once again be locked down over Easter owing to fears of a third wave of the virus. At press time, Germany had nearly 7,500 new daily casis of Covid-19.
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Risk of infection significantly lower in venues, says study
The risk of Covid-19 infection is significantly lower in cultural places than in schools, offices or retail shops, according to a new study conducted by the Technical University of Berlin.
The study used an infection risk model, developed by Martin Kriegel, ventilation expert and head of the Hermann Rietschel Institute at the university, along with the Robert Koch Institute and the Berlin Charité, to examine the risk of infection in closed spaces.
The results showed that if ventilation, social distancing and hygiene measures are observed, a theatre, an opera or a museum with 30% occupancy has the lowest risk of infection of all the closed spaces that were examined.
In schools, for example, even if a classroom is only half occupied and the students wear a mask, the risk is still almost six times higher than in a theatre hall which is at 30% capacity.
A certain amount of virus-free air per person and per hour spent in the rooms is needed in order to minimise the risk of infection
The highest risk of exposure was found in high school lessons with full seating capacity without a mask being required. In this situation, it is 23 times more likely for those involved to become infected than for masked visitors at a 30% occupied cultural space.
In a multi-person office which has 20% occupancy, and in which the workers are masked, the predicted risk of infection is three times higher than in the aforementioned cultural site.
While the risk of infection is twice as high in the supermarket – even if everyone complies with the mask requirement – than in a cultural space at 30% occupancy.
Kriegel says that one of the study’s key findings is that a certain amount of virus-free air per person and per hour spent in the rooms is needed in order to minimise the risk of infection.
The findings from the Technical University of Berlin’s study are in line with multiple clinical trials which have found little risk of an infected person transmitting Covid-19 in an indoor concert venue, including Spain’s Primacov and two German trials – Restart-19 and Konzerthaus Dortmund.
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French test concerts will admit positive Covid cases
France’s upcoming test concerts will admit participants who tested positive for Covid-19 before the event, according to the French minister for culture, Roselyne Bachelot.
Bachelot yesterday evening (15 January) appeared on French news channel LCI to discuss the upcoming experiments, which are spearheaded by a new working group, and revealed that positive cases “will not be filtered because you have to put yourself in a situation where there will be a mixing”.
A number of similar experiments have taken place across Europe, including Germany’s Restart-19 and Spain’s Primacov, but the tests in France would be the first to allow entry for Covid-positive participants.
According to the culture minister, two tests will take place at The Dome (cap. 8,500), Marseille, in the second half of March with 1,000 spectators who will be “seated with the possibility of getting up”.
“I am very optimistic about festivals and seated shows. For standing shows, it’s more complicated”
Participants will be tested beforehand and will be required to wear masks and use antibacterial gel.
The Marseille concerts will be organised by Béatrice Desgranges of the city’s flagship festival, Marsatac, who is also a member of France’s live music trade body, SMA (Syndicat des musiques contemporaries).
The protocols for the tests have been validated by Inserm (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) and the Scientific Council of Professor Delfraissy.
The Paris experiment will take place at the AccorHotels Arena (cap. 20, 300) in April with 5,000 participants, under the guidance of the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, says Bachelot.
“I am very optimistic about festivals and seated shows. For standing shows, it’s more complicated,” the culture minister told LCI.
The minister also revealed that the experiments would be reviewed during an international conference in Marseille on 8 April.
French Covid expert: ‘Cultural places are lower risk’
The head of infectious diseases at France’s largest hospital says that the risks of Covid-19 contamination in cultural places are “much lower than in the family, professional or school environment”, provided restrictions are observed.
Appearing on French cable channel BFMTV, Eric Caumes from the Pitié Salpêtrière hospital in Paris said that even in cultural places where there are lots of people – such as theatres, stadiums and museums – the risks of Covid-19 contamination is low if social distancing measures are adhered to and masks are worn.
Caumes’ comments are in line with multiple clinical trials which have found little risk of an infected person transmitting Covid-19 in an indoor concert venue, including Spain’s Primacov and two German trials – Restart-19 and Konzerthaus Dortmund. France has announced test concerts of its own, scheduled for the spring.
The infectious diseases chief went on to say that the reopening of culture is essential to avoid a mental health crisis in France and stop citizens from “turning into zombies” – adding the government must consider the “global dimension of health”.
The infectious diseases chief said that the reopening of culture is essential to avoid a mental health crisis in France
“The limit [for hospitals] is not very far, we are so close to the level that we are afraid of…but I am not sure that confinement would improve the psychic parameters which are rather worrying,” he said.
French culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has said that museums and monuments will be the first to reopen when there is a drop in the number Covid-19 cases but cinemas, concert halls and theatres are to remain closed until further notice.
Bachelot recently met with the organisers of major French festivals as concern mounts over the impact of France’s ongoing health state of emergency, though the participants say it did not result in any concrete guarantees regarding the festival summer.
The culture minister will hold another meeting with the festival sector on 15 February, by which time she will need to have concrete answers and solutions for festival organisers, says live music association, Prodiss.
Meanwhile, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, is under pressure from his scientific counsel to impose a third lockdown, warning the leader the country’s curfew and other restrictions are not enough to curb the virus.
Dutch test shows postponed, lockdown extended
The Dutch government has postponed four of the ‘Back to Live’ test shows that were scheduled to take place this month, after extending the country’s lockdown by three weeks.
The postponed test shows include a cabaret performance by Guido Weijers at the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht, a business conference at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht and two football matches at the home grounds of NEC and Almere City FC.
The ‘Back to Live’ test shows are being organised by FieldLab Events (a joint initiative with Event Platform, the Alliance of Event Builders and the government) with the aim of determining how events with an increased visitor capacity can take place safely and responsibly during the pandemic.
Minister for health, Hugo de Jonge, announced during a press conference on Tuesday (12 January) evening that the cabinet will determine next week when the events get the green light.
“In this context, while we still do not know so much. Where primary schools cannot even open, it is not smart to hold events that involve 100 people together. We want to know a little more about the British variant, in the context of the Dutch measures,” he says.
“In this context, where primary schools cannot even open, it is not smart to hold events that involve 100 people together”
Fieldlab spokesman Riemer Rijpkema told Nu.nl: “We still believe that our field studies take place in a safe environment, even with the UK variant that has now surfaced. But we understand that people want to investigate the impact of this variant further.”
The Alliance of Event Builders has added: “The disappointment is mainly because researchers have indicated that despite the British variant of the virus there is no reason to postpone the Fieldlabs and that this perspective is urgently needed. With the postponement of the Fieldlabs, the opportunity to gain insights by scientists, as has recently been done in Barcelona, Leipzig and other cities, has again been made impossible in our country.”
The ‘Back to Live’ test series, which was approved in December, also includes a concert and a dance event at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam and two open-air festivals at the Lowlands and Defqon Biddinghuizen festival site, all of which will be organised by Mojo and ID&T. Details are yet to be announced.
The Netherlands will remain in lockdown until 9 February, with a newly introduced curfew, and venues will stay shuttered.
Second German study shows venues “not places of infection”
A second study in Germany of the movement of airborne particles in an indoor environment has shown there is a negligible risk of infection in properly ventilated concert venues.
The scientific study, which took place at Dortmund’s 1,500-seat Konzerthaus, was carried out over three days in November by the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute of Goslar and particle measurement company Parte Q, with the backing of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency. It follows August’s Restart-19 study by the University Hospital of Halle, the results of which were published in October, which concluded that, with adequate ventilation, live events posed a “low to very low” risk of person-to-person transmission.
Unlike Restart-19, which featured only human participants, the Dortmund study used a high-tech dummy, dubbed Oleg, to simulate human breathing in the Konzerthaus.
For the study, on 2–3 and 20 November, the team measured aerosol transmission across the venue, including in the auditorium and foyer. Their conclusion is that under certain conditions – that the venue has a sufficient fresh-air supply and all attendees are wearing face masks – the risk of someone infecting healthy concertgoers with Covid-19 “through aerosol transmission can be almost ruled out”, according to a Konzerthaus release.
“This is exactly what we need in terms of information”
“Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection,” says Dr Raphael von Hoensbroech, director of Konzerthaus Dortmund. “The past few months have shown that politics needs a scientifically sound basis for decision-making. With our study, we want to ensure that concert halls and theatres may again admit sufficient audiences when they reopen.”
The key findings of the study include:
- With masks and a sufficient fresh air supply via the Konzerthaus’s existing air conditioning system – a so-called RLT (Raumlufttechnik), or room ventilation system – there was practically no influence of the test aerosols on all nearby surfaces
- The large size of the room already ensures a strong dilution of contaminated aerosols, and the air conditioning effectively removes all aerosols, never allowing them to accumulate
- A full concert hall does not interfere with the passage of air upwards, but rather promotes it through additional thermal effects
- It is necessary to wear masks in corridors, rest areas and the foyers, as the ventilation there (in Konzerthaus Dortmund’s case) works differently to in the concert hall itself and close contact cannot be ruled out
- The Konzerthaus cannot trigger a superspreading event with its existing ventilation system, which completely replaces the air inside the venue with external air every 20 minutes
- Measuring CO2 during an event can help to better assess the spread of airborne particles in the hall
While in theory the Konzerthaus should be able to operate at full capacity without risk, in practice (taking into account the difficulties of socially distancing in corridors, bars, etc.) a so-called chequerboard seating system, with every other seat occupied, is recommended by the scientists. Either way, when a patron is unable to wear the mask, the seat directly in front of them should be kept free.
“Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection”
While the study only provides concrete results for transmission in Konzerthaus Dortmund, the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute is able to apply the results to other similar concert halls and venues, it says. Even for those which don’t meet the requirements, additional studies can be carried out with “relatively little effort”, according to the head of the study, Wolfgang Schade.
Heinz-Jörn Moriske, director of the Federal Environment Agency, describes the Dortmund experiment as an “outstanding study with a lot of informative value”, adding: “This is exactly what we need in terms of information. With a chessboard-like distribution of guests and the ventilation system at 100%, the risk of infection is very low.”
Additionally, he says, “the wearing of mouth and nose protection in the hall is advantageous, even if not as important as previously assumed.”
“This study provides an important basis for assessing the risk of transmission of Sars CoV-2 at concerts with an audience,” agrees hygiene expert Martin Exner.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Fauci: Live shows could return in autumn 2021
Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the leaders of the White House’s coronavirus taskforce and the incoming chief medical advisor to the US president, has predicted that live performances could resume this autumn, depending on how widely the Covid-19 vaccine can be distributed by then.
Speaking at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals’ APAP NYC conference on Saturday (9 January), Fauci (pictured) told delegates he believes theatres and other live entertainment venues may reopen “some time in the fall of 2021”, dependent on the US achieving a form of herd immunity by that time.
According to the New York Times, Fauci said for shows to return, between 70% and 85% of the US population would need to vaccinated against Covid-19. “If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall [autumn] of 2021,” he explained, “so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing on stage, as well as people in the audience.”
Fauci suggested that, should that vaccination goal be met, venues with good ventilation and proper air filters could open without social distancing – though some theatres may ask audience members to continue to wear masks.
“We’ll be back in the theatres … It will happen”
“I think you can then start getting back to almost full capacity of seating,” he said, also suggesting that some venues could follow airlines and require negative Covid-19 tests before entry.
During the conversation, Fauci also referred to Restart-19 – the German study that demonstrated that, with proper ventilation and hygiene measures, live events have a low impact on the spread of coronavirus – suggesting there should be similar studies carried out in the United States. “What the performing arts needs to do is to do a little bit more of what the Germans are doing,” he commented.
In his concluding remarks, Fauci urged Americans to stay vigilant about public health measures so that the live industry could restart. “We’ll be back in the theatres – performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” he said. “It will happen.”
At the time of writing, had 1,140 new daily cases of Covid-19 and 18 new deaths.
French music sector plans a number of test concerts
A working group for test concerts has been assembled by France’s live music association, Prodiss, steered by Jean-Paul Roland (director of the Eurockéennes festival), Marie Sabot (We Love Green festival), and Armel Campana (Main Square festival).
Roland says the group is hoping to hold a test concert in March in an indoor arena such as Paris’s Zenith (cap. 6, 293), provided they win the support of government.
“We’ve spoken with a lot of people: epidemiologists, laboratories, CNM (National Music Centre – to finance the project), the City of Paris etc. All that is missing is the ministerial decision because it cannot be done without a stamp of approval from the Ministry of Culture, and also probably with approval from the health department and home office,” he says.
“There will be scientific answers in the weeks that follow, but organisationally, we will have the answers the same day, especially on the time and logistics to plan for saliva tests or PCR, for example, at the entrance,” adds Roland.
“That big summer festivals like Hellfest or Eurockéennes can test everyone at the entrance is unlikely, but it can be a complementary solution for spectators who have not done a test. We need to have as many indicators as possible to adapt,” he explains.
“I want to send a message of hope: we must be able to achieve a summer of festivals”
Malika Seguineau, director of Prodiss, says: “To reopen to the public, you have to go through this kind of experimentation, to lead to a festival season and, on the other hand, to establish a schedule for the tours, which depending on their size require three to 24 weeks months preparation.”
Two more test concerts are being planned for February in Marseille, organised by Béatrice Desgranges of the city’s flagship festival, Marsatac, who is also a member of France’s live music trade body, SMA (Syndicat des musiques contemporaries).
The protocols for the tests have been validated by Inserm (National Institute of Health and Medical Research) and the Scientific Council of Professor Delfraissy, and a conference to present the results is to take place on 8 April in Marseille.
“We are going to stop being nice,” says Aurélie Hannedouche from SMA. “We have the impression that, in culture, we must give more guarantees than other industries. We are told that we generate queues and that we do not present scientific data: as if shopping centres do not generate queues? And where is the science for the stores where everyone keys the products?”
The various test concerts were mentioned by the minister of culture, Roselyne Bachelot, last Friday (8 January) on radio station franceinfo who said that it was “very important to base decisions on scientific studies”.
Bachelot also said she is “doing everything” to make possible a reopening of cultural places at the beginning of February after prime minister Jean Castex announced that there would currently be “no relaxation” in the closure of museums, cinemas, theatres and music venues, last Thursday (7 January).
“I want to send a message of hope: we must be able to achieve a summer of festivals,” said Bachelot. “I am confident,” she added.
Danish live industry to hold series of test events
Denmark’s live music association, Dansk Live, has been granted permission to hold a series of test events utilising rapid testing to find out whether large-scale events can safely take place without social distancing.
Organised in conjunction with the Divisional [Football] Association, the three-part series will trial the efficacy of rapid testing at a football match, a concert/conference, and a festival.
The football model is the first to be trialled and will take place during a series of non-socially distanced 3F Superliga matches this year, testing 30,000 participants.
Attendees will be tested with both an antigen test (rapid test) and a PCR test (laboratory test). Entry will depend on a negative result. A PCR test is followed up six days after the match day to determine the efficacy of rapid testing and the minimised distance.
Organisers say the concert/conference model will take place indoors but will otherwise be identical to the football model while the festival model will focus on ‘simulating situations with participants who are moving among each other’. Steps two and three will await the results of step one and more details on each will be revealed at a later date.
Esben Marcher, Dansk Live, hopes these test events may pave the way for increased capacity at festivals and venues this year: “We have worked hard for a long time to create a solid basis for the implementation of the Danish festivals and concerts in 2021. We are completely convinced that we, together with the Divisional Association, have found a viable model. Therefore, we are very happy to have received scientific support so that we can continue our plans and complete the project. It should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many good concert experiences throughout the country in 2021.”
“This should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many good concert experiences throughout the country in 2021”
Lars Ramme Nielsen, head of tourism and experience economics at the Danish Chamber of Commerce, says: “If our study shows the intended effect, it will benefit across many cultural and experience industries, including major sporting events, concert, theatre and festival activities as well as conferences and seminars. At the same time, it will help to spread the testing in Denmark to people who might not otherwise have been tested – especially people without symptoms.”
Professor and chief physician at the Department of Infectious Diseases at Aarhus University Hospital, Lars Østergaard, who is a contributor to the project, says: “If the events we are setting up in a number of stadiums turn out to be justifiable, then you have a basis to work from.”
A similar government-backed test series, dubbed ‘Back to Live’, is due to take place in the Netherlands this month, following on from last year’s pilot events in Germany and Spain.
Germany’s Restart-19 found that live shows could take place safely under “specific conditions during a pandemic” and Spain’s PRIMACOV trial found that a live music concert performed under a series of safety measures is ‘not associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections’.