Tim Bendzko’s concert turns into a great corona experiment

Tim Bendzko's concert turns into a great corona experiment

Leipzig. The pandemic has paralyzed the events industry in Germany. Culture and sport are looking for solutions. An attempt in Leipzig should show how great the risks are – at a concert by Tim Bendzko.

 Which surfaces do visitors touch particularly often? How does aerosol move through the air? What paths do people use most often? Researchers in Leipzig are investigating these questions.

© Hendrik Schmidt
Which surfaces do visitors touch particularly often? How does aerosol move through the air? What paths do people use most often? Researchers in Leipzig are investigating these questions.

For Tim Bendzko, the 1400 listeners in the Arena Leipzig are all world savers. “Thank you all for being here and helping us to return to normal as quickly as possible,” the 35-year-old pop star calls out to the audience. His fans are all test subjects this Saturday. The Bendzko concert is an experiment by the University Medical Center Halle. The infectiologists want to find out how high the risk of a corona outbreak is after major events. While Bendzko sings, the researchers collect a large amount of data.

“It’s about an evidence-based approach,” said Michael Gekle, Dean of the Medical Faculty at the University of Halle, explaining the concept of the Corona concert. Due to the pandemic, major events are prohibited in Germany until at least the end of October. That affects culture, but also sports. Gekle and his researchers are looking for ways to get away from this blanket ban.

It was right to shut down social life in March and April, said Gekle. But now it is a question of acting “risk-adapted”. This requires data. “If you are asked now: What risk is there in such an event – then nobody knows,” said Gekle.

The experiment began on Saturday morning with an extensive check-in. All participants had a fever before entering the hall. They were also equipped with so-called contact tracers that were supposed to register their contacts. Sensors followed the routes. For this purpose, fluorescent disinfectants were used to make visible which surfaces were touched particularly often. The flight of the aerosols – the smallest particles in the air that can carry the virus – should also be traced.

For the “Restart-19” study, three concert situations were simulated on Saturday: One as before the start of the Corona crisis, one with a little more seating distance between the audience and one with a distance of 1.50 meters between people. “We examine risk constellations,” said study director Stefan Moritz. He expects the first results in six to eight weeks.

The researchers had actually hoped for around 4,200 volunteer participants. In the end it was only a third. The holiday season in Saxony and the increasing number of infections in Germany may have contributed to the fact that the targeted numbers were not achieved, said study leader Stefan Moritz. But valid data could also be generated with the 1400 test persons. “We have good data quality.”

Kathleen (36) and Felix (37) were among those who spent their entire Saturday in the Arena Leipzig. They came from Görlitz on the Polish border to Leipzig for the study. “Actually, we’re not here for the music,” said Felix. They wanted to help find out how cultural events can be possible again. The day was exhausting. All participants in the heated hall had to wear FFP2 masks. A corona self-test was also mandatory. According to Moritz, a test by a woman returning from vacation was positive beforehand.

According to the Halle University Hospital, the large-scale test cost around one million euros. It was financed by the states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. According to study director Moritz, there are now three other international research teams in Australia, Belgium and Denmark that are planning similar experiments. That was also a goal – to provide an impetus for more research on major events.

Pop star Bendzko drew a positive conclusion at the end of the concert experiment. He expected the whole thing to feel a little more sterile and more like an experimental set-up. “But we really enjoyed that. We survived drive-in concerts in the summer. In this respect, this is the first step towards normalcy for us today. “

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