Scientifically supervised rock'n'roll at the Sala Apolo dance hall in Barcelona

500 people participate in a study on contagion risk in concerts

To summarize the pandemic, and before vaccination arrives, the basic strategy is "mask, hands, distance (and ventilation)". Even so, it is not enough; sectors such as live music and nightclubs know this well. Would it be possible to apply a strategy of "mask, hands, antigen test (and ventilation)"? This is the hypothesis that has led Dr Bonaventura Clotet's team to launch a study on the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection in a mass musical event with transmission prevention measures. The purpose, shared with the Primavera Sound festival, was to gather a thousand people at the Apolo music venue in Barcelona during a concert with no distance restrictions. Negotiations with the Health Department reduced the sample to 500, and the field study was done yesterday. It was scientifically supervised rock'n'roll, and it involved the tireless work of the Apolo's staff, always attentive to the behaviour and needs of the audience before, during and after the concerts of the bands Mujeres and Renaldo y Clara, and the DJ sessions of Marta Salicrú and Unai Muguruza.

"This is a clinical trial, and we put the rock'n'roll in it" said drummer Arnau Sanz at the beginning of the Mujeres concert. In the morning, the volunteers selected for the study (everyone over 18 and under 59) went through the twenty or so tents set up in the Garden of the Three Xemenies, where they took samples for antigen and PCR testing. After fifteen minutes the antigen results arrived. If it was negative, you still had to wait in the early afternoon to find out if you were one of the 500 who would enter the Apolo or if you were part of the control group that was left out.

At the entrance to the Apolo you were given a reusable black FFP2 mask. "You look like a cult, all wearing the same mask", joked Clara Vinyals of the Renaldo and Clara group. Once inside, and with the Radar Covid application activated to guarantee traceability, the idea was to reproduce everything that went into a concert before the pandemic... And it would have been the same if it weren't for the masks, the gel dispensers, the arrows on the floor pointing the way between the different spaces, and the patient indications of the Apolo staff. We volunteers could move around three rooms. In room 1, the largest, there were open bars, tables and chairs, but you could also drink standing up, as Dr. Clotet himself did. We chatted and chatted, and, mindful of the purpose of the study, we kept no distance. However, if someone spoke with their mask lowered, they were quickly warned with complete cordiality. The rules were clear.

The concert experiment

Hall 2 was for concerts, hall 3 was the smoking area, and the audience was following arrows and going up and down stairs to have a drink, watch a concert or dance in our own Barcelona way, leaving an empty semicircle in front of the DJ. As the excitement and disinhibition grew, fermented or distilled, it was all rather like a night such as the ones we haven't seen since March. The height of the evening came with the rock'n'roll of Mujeres, which provoked first dances and then pogos. It was also about that, about sweating and living the opportunity intensely... but without forgetting that we were participating in a scientific rehearsal.

"Put your mask on! Don't touch my balls!", shouted the drummer of Mujeres when he saw some bare-mouth spectators. It was a way of reminding us both of the importance of this evening at the Apolo and the need to maintain the commitment made by participating in the study. Today we will receive the result of Saturday's PCR, which will allow us to refine the effectiveness of the antigen test. For eight days we have to avoid being in contact with people over 70. And, most importantly, on December 20th we have to have another PCR.

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