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Concertgoers called on to take part in Covid-19 experiment

More than 4,000 concertgoers in Germany are to be enlisted to take part in a coronavirus experiment to understand how the virus could be prevented from spreading at large indoor concerts.

The attendees at a Tim Bendzko (pictured) concert in Leipzig will be equipped with tracking devices on chains around their necks that transmit a signal at five-second intervals and bottles of fluorescent disinfectant.

The contact tracers collect data on each person’s movements and proximity to other members of the audience at an indoor venue on August 22.

The hand sanitiser will show up under UV lights, which the scientists will use to look at after the concert to see surfaces where a transmission of the virus through smear infection is most likely to take place.

The experiment is part of a project called Restart19, run by the University Medical Center in the German city of Halle (Saale). The project’s organisers say the aim is to “identify a framework” for how larger cultural and sports events could be held “without posing a danger for the population” after September 30.

Stefan Moritz, head of clinical infectious diseases at the University Hospital in Halle, told the Guardian: “We are trying to find out if there could be a middle way between the old and the new normal that would allow organisers to fit enough people into a concert venue to not make a loss.”

The 12,000-capacity Leipzig concert hall, where the experiment will take place, has been asked to model three different scenarios with changes to the number of entrance points and capacity.

The first will see the volunteers entering through two main doors before taking their seats, while the second “optimised” scenario, will see the crowd enter through eight entrances to facilitate less mingling, and every second seat on the stands will be blocked.

In the third, only 2,000 spectators will be allowed to enter the venue and be seated at a 1.5m distance from each other.

The scientists behind the concert said they plan to present their findings in early October.

Volunteers will be sent a DIY test kit and have a swab at a doctor’s practice or laboratory 48 hours before the concert starts and those who cannot show proof of a negative test at the door will be denied entry.

In addition, a face mask with an exhalation valve will be given to each concertgoer with the disinfectant, though organisers warn that complete protection cannot be guaranteed, but chances of catching the virus at the concert is “extremely slim.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last month that Germany will ban most large events until the end of October to prevent a new wave of coronavirus transmission.

Image: Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edited for size