Researchers in Germany are planning to stage a concert in Germany with 4,000 volunteers in attendance, hoping to study the behavior of crowds and better understand methods to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases at large-scale gatherings. The concert, featuring singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko, is planned for August 22 at Leipzig Concert Hall.
“We are trying to find out if there could be a middle way between the old and new normal that would allow organizers to fit enough people into a concert venue to not make a loss,” Stefan Moritz told The Guardian. Moritz is the head of clinical infectious disease study at Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg and coordinating the experiment. It is being staged due to the fact that the near-complete ban on large-scale events across the globe for much of this year – and the foreseeable future until a vaccine is approved and manufactured in enormous quantities – has become “an existential threat for many athletes and artists, who depend on their audience for income.”
Volunteers wishing to participate must be between ages 18 and 50, and show a negative coronavirus test result from within 48 hours of the concert. Even so, study participants are cautioned that there is no way to fully ensure that zero covid-positive but asymptomatic individuals won’t be there.
The participants, all wearing masks, are expected to experience three concerts — one without social distancing, one with a slower entry and more focused on hygiene, and a final version in which participants will sit far enough away from one another to maintain social distancing.
Scientists plan on collecting information in numerous ways, including participants transmitting data every five seconds about where they are in the stadium using a wearable contact-tracing device.
They will use fluorescent hand sanitizer so scientists with UV lights will be able to see what surfaces have been touched and “become particularly dangerous,” according to the university’s website.
The plans also call for a fog machine to pump out fog meant to help visualize how the coronavirus could spread by aerosols.
Germany has been largely successful in its mitigation of the coronavirus, seeing fewer than 650 cases a day on average since May. While much of the country remains on lockdown per government order, some live events have already begun to draw crowds nearing 1,000, such as a pair of concerts recently staged in Saxony.
Nearly 1,000 volunteers have already signed up for the study in August.