More than 1,000 Barcelona music fans have taken part in a scientific study to test the effectiveness of same-day Covid-19 screening in order to safely hold concerts and events without social distancing.
The study, which has been organised by Barcelona’s The Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation along with the Primavera Sound music festival, was given the green light by the regional authorities in northeast Catalonia.
During the event on Saturday, half of the volunteers were randomly selected to take part in the free concert at the city’s Teatro Apolo venue, while the other 500 were sent home as a control group.
Organisers will use this group to analyse if there was any contagion inside the concert hall despite the screening with antigen tests, which while not as accurate as other types of tests, do produce results in 15 minutes as compared to several hours, or days, later.
Dr Boris Revollo, the virologist who designed the study’s protocols, told The Associated Press, hat the use of same-day antigen screening for large events would not act as a substitute for face masks and other sanitation rules, but he believed it could be a powerful tool to help make large events safe enough until vaccines are widespread enough.
He said: “This is not a party, this is a scientific study. This could be useful in all types of events, from cultural events, to business congresses, to sporting events. And young people, as we have seen, are holding their own clandestine parties because they have no other outlet.”
The 500 allowed into the five-hour music festival of rock groups and DJs had to wear FFP2 face masks and use hand disinfectant. However, they were not required to remain socially distanced on the concert floor.
The face masks were required except in the upstairs bar where organisers allowed them to be removed to have the one drink volunteers were treated to.
The 1,000 volunteers will also undergo two PCR tests, which have a higher capacity to detect the virus than the same-day antigen test, first on Saturday before the concert, and then again eight days later. Revollo said these PCR tests will allow him and his fellow investigators to determine if any infected people got past the same-day antigen screen and, if so, did they infect others inside the show.
Spain is still under limited restrictions for the pandemic that has killed a confirmed 47,600 residents.
Concert halls have been one of the hardest hit sectors by the health restrictions applied in Spain, twice being completely shut down for several months. In November, an association representing concert halls in Spain said that more than 25,000 shows had been cancelled because of the pandemic, costing the industry €120m in lost revenue. Halls were only recently allowed to reopen in Barcelona but at 50 per cent capacity or a maximum of 500 people.
The 2021 edition of Primavera Sound Barcelona is scheduled to take place on June 2 to 6 after this year’s edition was cancelled due to the virus.