In a scenario simulated by scientists, following health and safety instructions, the risk of infection for participants and their contacts was about 70 times lower than for pre-pandemic behavior.
Michael Geckel, director of the Department of Medicine at Martin Luther University, who participated in the study, said: “A concert or handball game that strictly enforces safety protocols is safer than attending a large wedding.”
The scientists’ conclusions are based on the results of an experiment that simulated an indoor concert with about 1
Researchers from the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, a public institution, use tracking devices to collect data on the activities and behavior of participants, all of which must be tested negative for the new coronavirus. In the next two months, the data collected in the one-day experiment in August was input into computer simulations to estimate the hypothetical spread of the coronavirus under different safety regulations and infection rates.
In the three cases, the main goal of the experiment was to find a balance between as many economic incentives as possible and sufficient safety restrictions to limit health risks.
First, participants wore masks to pretend that the pandemic did not exist, allowing researchers to create a detailed computer simulation of a concert without social distancing and full audiences.
In the second case, the organizer imposed rules of distancing social interaction and reduced the number of participants. Researchers said on Thursday that this situation will provide sufficient safety to bring the rate of indoor incidents to 50 new cases per 100,000 within a week. Germany regards areas exceeding this threshold as hazardous areas.
The researchers found that it is still possible to perform activities with an infection rate higher than this level, but only if the organizer must follow a strict distance, as simulated in the third scenario.
In all three cases, participants were assigned seats.
The researchers warned that the safety of participants largely depends on masks and indoor ventilation systems, both of which play a vital role in preventing infection.
Germany approved a $580 million plan last month to improve ventilation systems in museums, theaters and other venues. The director of the experiment, Stephen Moritz, said that as long as there is no effective vaccine widely distributed, more ventilation funds are needed. He said: “This epidemic will not end in a few months.”
In the early stages of the concert, the prospect of the experiment triggered hate emails and accused it of becoming a super-spread event, but the researchers said on Thursday that the concert did not cause a known infection.
The results of their research were released on Thursday, at a critical moment in Germany, and also the day after Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a month-long partial nationwide lockdown. He said that the health authorities have lost their protection against new developments. Infection control. So far, some German federal states with relatively low levels of infection, including Saxony-Anhalt (partially funding this research), have advocated a less rigorous approach.
The plunge in spring cases in Germany and other European countries has prompted people to be optimistic about the feasibility of resuming indoor incidents. Saxony-Anhalt was originally scheduled to reopen nightclubs on Sunday, but these plans are now delayed indefinitely.
A few hours before Merkel’s announcement on Wednesday, thousands of event industry employees gathered in Berlin to call for a revival of the industry.
Sports clubs also expressed concern about this. Many venues (including the Leipzig Arena used for experiments in August) are used for concerts and sports competitions. The economic dilemma of the local handball club at the venue sparked the study because there were concerns that the club would face bankruptcy unless it found a way to host the game again.
In the summer, the reduction of new cases in Germany has allowed clubs and other sports associations to resume games with limited audience numbers, but organizers say they continue to face difficulties because games where only a small number of spectators participate are usually not profitable.
The scientists behind this research hope that the findings published on Thursday may compromise. But as Germany is about to enter another partial blockade, their proposal will have to wait.
Armin Willingmann, the regional economic minister of the Saxony-Anhalt state, said that the upcoming restrictions “will continue to apply” and the state provided some funding for the study. But he said that the research found that “once things return to normal levels, they can guide national decisions.”