It was probably the only major pop concert that was allowed to take place in a closed room in Germany during the summer. Tim Bendzko played at the Leipzig “Arena” on August 22. It was not a measured violation of the rules then in force, but an approved measurement that was conducted according to strict rules.
Doctors at the University of Halle-Wittenberg wanted to know how big the risk of infection really is at concerts and similar events – depending on whether you work without, medium or strict distance and hygiene concept. The results were presented on Thursday at the University of Halle. You are questioning some of the rules for Germany’s November lockdown that were announced a day earlier.
The scientists around the infectiologist Stefan Moritz and the epidemiologist Rafael Mikolajczyk had organized a pop concert, which actually consisted of three short pop concerts in different variants: normally sold-out auditorium with 8,700 spectators, 4,000 spectators with a small opening of one chair in a chessboard pattern, and in pairs occupied hall with a minimum distance of 1.50 meters to the next pair.
The viewers all received channels with a technology that makes it possible to determine and track the whereabouts and distances to others with almost centimeter accuracy. Catering stands could be used during concert breaks, everyone was obliged to wear a mask. In addition, the airflows are modeled with different ventilation concepts.
The results fill a multi-faceted scientific manuscript currently available for review by other experts. Even before this process is complete and the results published in a specialist journal, it is unusual to go public.
The results suggest improvements in corona measures
The decision was made because you have no influence on the length of the assessment process, said Dean of Medical School Michael Gekle. These are findings relevant to “public services”, and it is necessary to transfer the data and conclusions “even at the current maturity level” to those responsible.
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The “responsible persons” are the politicians, represented at the presentation by Minister of the Interior and Science Armin Willingmann. The expensive project was funded relatively quickly and unbureaucratically from the state, along with that from Saxony.
Subjects of a large-scale experiment at the University Medical Center Halle / Saale watch a concert by pop singer Tim … Photo: dpa / Hendrik Schmidt
After the presentation of the results, he considers it necessary to emphasize that the rules for the Wednesday lockdown in November of course apply for the time being. However, these results suggest they could be improved a bit at the next meeting of the Chancellor and the country leaders in two weeks.
A blanket ban on major events may not make sense
Because a complete ban on major events, if you believe the data from the hall in Leipzig and the computers in Halle, is not particularly effective as a pandemic breakwater. Concerts, sports events and similar large events that are fully occupied and without a hygiene concept can significantly accelerate the spread of the virus.
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But even halving the number of spectators, combined with a mask requirement, fixed seating and an admission concept that keeps the queues short, can, according to the calculations, lead to the contribution of such an event to the spread of the virus even at incidence values around 50. in a city. since Leipzig would be very small.
Even at higher incidence values, events with a lower risk are still possible, but with a further reduced number of visitors, as in the scenario with rows of rows and a minimum distance of 1.50 meters.
Ventilation can be critical in case of infection
According to Mikolajczyk, this applies to both the events themselves and the contacts that visitors to the event would have in the following days: If you do not get infected during the concert – if he or she does not get the germ elsewhere – no one else will after the concert become infected yourself. On.
Sensors and other aids must monitor walkways, fluorescent disinfectants must make visible which … Photo: dpa / Hendrik Schmidt
However, the modeling of the air flows showed that an efficient supply and removal of air, taking into account the physical conditions of the site, is probably decisive. And the fact that in modeling a concept that the scientists considered superior to the status quo in the room completely failed shows that much research is still needed here.
Not to mention the costs for installation or conversion. Moritz’s question in the political direction here: an investment program that allows for retrofitting, and a huge engineering effort to develop an infectious rating system for ventilation systems in large and small event spaces.
Mask requirement, no standing, hygiene stewards
Moritz not only left it with data, diagrams, and virtual aerosol clouds, but also submitted a catalog of recommendations. First of all, full capacity events in pandemic times should be avoided. In any case, one of the previously applicable rules made sense.
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In addition, there should be no standing space, as that would further reduce the contacts. It also makes sense to wear a mask on the seat. Post-concert surveys also showed that the vast majority would accept this and not feel constrained by it.
You also need “hygiene stewards” who communicate the rules and enforce them if necessary. But the experiment certainly does not yield ultimate truths.
The assumption that a given virus dilution reduces the risk of infection to practically zero is only one assumption, albeit a plausible one – and modeling is modeling only, not reality. In Bendzko’s most famous song, he “just has to save the world”. He has not yet lived up to that promise with the show in Leipzig. But he has already made a greater contribution than many others.