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An indoor event, Source: Stock photo

Testing the ground for return of events sector in The Netherlands

Testing the ground for return of events sector in The Netherlands

Probably one of the most fun scientific studies ever took place over the weekend in Amsterdam

An ongoing initiative of the events and research sectors, and the Dutch government aims to analyse how and when publicly-attended events can restart in The Netherlands. Fieldlab Events wants to develop a safe and reliable, science-based and data-driven approach to serve the industry and decision-makers and make future events with increased capacity possible again.

At least four types of events will be tested, under a project titled 'Back to live' – indoors passive, indoors active, outdoors active and outdoors active of festival type. Under controlled conditions, the first music events were organised last weekend in Amsterdam.

A wide partnership to bring the events sector “Back to live”

'Back to live' is organised by Fiedlab Events, a collaboration between Event Platform (consisting of trade organizations in the event industry), the Alliance of Event Organisers (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers) and ClickNL. They are supported by academia and four ministries: of Economic Affairs, of Education, Culture & Science, of Justice & Security and of Health, Welfare & Sport.

Together, they will be looking at several areas of measures, where actions can be taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 and its variations. For each area, the team has set up specific research questions and ways to validate their results.

The different aspects of a corona-proof event

The research areas and questions go as follows:

  • Behaviour: How can we influence the behaviour of our visitors?
  • Tracking and Tracing: What solutions are there to prevent infected people from attending the event? How can we have the test take place in advance and can we easily retrieve the contact history afterwards?
  • Rapid testing: Is it possible to test on site before granting visitors access and how can the test result be processed at the entrance?
  • Air quality: What role does air quality play, how can we influence it and what role do the circumstances of the event play?
  • Dynamics: What role do the dynamics of the event play in the risk of spreading? Here, researchers will look at contact duration and contact types, but also whether an event is seated or non-seated. Attention is also paid here to the influence of, for example, cheering and singing by the visitors.
  • Personal measures: How do personal measures contribute to a safe environment and are additional solutions conceivable and desirable? For example, using a mouth mask, washing hands or disinfection are covered.
  • Surface hygiene: What role does surface contamination play during events and how can we minimize its occurrence?
  • Vulnerable groups: Are there demographic differences in contamination risks and how can we distinguish these at events?

Pilot events with public

To find out the answer to these questions, the researchers have planned several pilot events, organised in a controlled and safe manner, but in real-life settings.

The first indoor events to be tested were of passive type, where visitors were calm and seated. On 15 February, a 500-people business event was organised and researched in Utrecht.

The study consisted of a mandatory PCR test for all participants, temperature measurement and a rapid test for some. All participants were provided with a motion sensor upon arrival so that it is known afterwards exactly how much contact there has been. All stayed within their own 'bubble' of participants with separate entrances and toilets for each group.

Naturally, the type of events that provoke the greatest interest, are indoors active events, where visitors can express themselves by singing, dancing or cheering, with or without an assigned seat.

The first concert-type music events took place last weekend in Amsterdam. The venue Ziggo Dome informed on its website that the tickets available for the shows - a dance event and a concert - sold out within twenty minutes after becoming available.

Some 1300 clubbers divided into five “bubbles” received different rules to follow – regarding mask-wearing, cheering - throughout the event. They were asked to take a PCR test prior to the event and after it and their personal contacts in the evening were monitored.

Outdoors active events (football game attendance type), with cheering and a fixed seat were planned for 21 February in Nijmegen and on 28 February in Almere. Furthermore, outdoors active events of a festival or fair type, (where visitors can move around) are planned for next week.

A Dance Festival on 13 March and a Pop Festival are scheduled for 14 March in the village of Biddinghuizen, but the tickets have sold out long ago.

Pieter Lubberts, programme manager at Fieldlab, speaking for Euronews said they still needed a couple of weeks more to analyse the results, discuss them with national authorities. Ultimately, this might influence amending the country’s roadmap to easing lockdown restrictions.

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