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Rock fans become willing lab rats

Jack Troughton | December 17, 2020

HUNDREDS of music fans have taken part in a scientific study aimed at helping live music venues safely beat the Covid crisis.

More than 1,000 Barcelona rock fans joined an experiment to test the effectiveness of ‘same-day’ testing aimed at allowing venues to open their doors again – live music events are a sector amongst the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions, losing over €120 million to date.

The Catalonia government gave its blessing to an experiment run by the Fight AIDS and Infectious Disease Foundation and the Primavera Sound music festival organisers – this year’s event was a casualty of the pandemic.

Barcelona’s Teatro Apolo hosted a free five-hour event and 500 volunteers were allowed into enjoy a mix of live bands and DJs – the other half of those taking part were sent home as a control group.

The audience were given fast-acting antigen tests – which are not as accurate as other controls but can give a result in 15 minutes. 

Both groups of volunteers also had full highly efficient PCR tests before the concert and will have a second test this weekend.

Virologist Boris Revollo, who helped organise the experiment, said the audience wore masks and used hand sanitiser but fans were not required to maintain social distancing during the show.

He believes the antigen tests were not a substitute for face masks and other anti-Covid measures but could be a powerful tool helping safety at large events until vaccination becomes widespread.

“This not a party, this is a scientific study. This could be useful in all types of event; from cultural events to business conferences to sporting events,” said the scientist.

“And young people, as we have seen, are holding their own clandestine parties because they have no other outlet.”