Concert Held For Hundreds in COVID Test Records No Infections: Researchers

COVID researchers who held an experimental music concert in Spain this month to test the effectiveness of same-day testing say preliminary results suggest none of the participants were infected while attending the gig.

The preliminary results were released on Wednesday, roughly two weeks after a clinical study was conducted inside the Sala Apolo, a large venue located in Barcelona, which saw a little under 500 people enjoy multiple DJ sessions and live performances.

"None of the attendees at the Sala Apolo concert became infected during the event," one of the primary organizers of the research project said on Twitter.

"Only two participants in the control group, who did not enter the venue, became infected. This study demonstrates that a live music concert performed under a series of safety measures that include a SARS-CoV-2 negative antigen test is not associated with an increase in infections due to #COVID19," the research team continued.

Ja tenim resultats de l’assaig clínic PRIMA-CoV: cap dels assistents al concert de la Sala Apolo es va infectar durant l’esdeveniment. Mentre que només dos participants del grup de control -que no van accedir al recinte- van infectar-se.

— FLSida (@FLSida) December 30, 2020

Organizers have pitched the findings as being a possible lifeline to the arts and culture industry, which has been massively impacted by the ongoing pandemic due to business closures or cut-backs, mandated social distancing rules and canceled events.

Researchers said the study has demonstrated how concerts could potentially go ahead in the future, assuming similar security measures used in the study are followed.

The study was spearheaded by the Fight Against AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation, Primavera Sound music festival and the Germans Trias i Pujol University Hospital.

They said the study had been set up to test the theory that a concert with live music that takes place safely is not always linked to a surge in SARS-CoV-2 infections.

All of the 1,047 participants were between 18-59 years old, without underlying health conditions and had not been diagnosed with COVID in the last 14 days. All had shown negative results in an antigen test, which is used to scan for a viral infection.

After screening, participants were randomized into two groups: those who could enter the concert (experimental group) and those who could not enter at all (a control group) and were sent home, helping researchers determine if the virus ended up inside the venue regardless of the antigen tests, which are quick but not always accurate.

Several safety measures were put in place. The bar was located in a separate room to the concert and drinks were only allowed to be taken in that space. Alcohol was still allowed, and attendees could only remove face coverings when drinking.

All participants were given an N95 mask upon entry and wearing it was mandatory in the experiment—but no distancing was required. Singing and dancing were fine during the 5-hour concert event, which included two DJ sessions and two live groups.

The average time people spent at the concert was 2 hours and 40 minutes, researchers said. Movement was clearly marked on the floors and controlled by security staff, while measures were taken to avoid queues at any toilets, entrances and exits.

All participants were tested again after eight days to search for infection. In total there were 463 people inside the venue and 496 in the control group, the team said.

As reported by Catalan newspaper Ara, the only difference between the experimental group and the control group for the trial is one attended the large gathering. Of the two people infected, one had been diagnosed three days after the music concert.

In a media release on Wednesday, the project's organizers said: "In the control branch (without access to the concert) 2 of 496 participants were infected. The two infected from the control branch were detected by rt-PCR and by antigen test.

"Both suffered from a clinically mild illness, reported to the health system and underwent an epidemiological questionnaire and contact study.

They added: "Therefore, attendance at a live music concert performed under a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 performed on the same day, was not associated with an increase in COVID infections."

Boris Revollo, MD, a co-lead of the study in Spain, said the "list of conditions included in the present study are easily reproducible and could be escalated to other events."

Outside of the clinical setting, health experts around the world stress the best ways of limiting COVID spread are physical distancing, face coverings and hand washing. The virus pandemic has now been tied to more than 19 million infections and 342,000 deaths in the U.S., with hospitals in some states reportedly under increasing strain.

Sala Apolo
Tiken Jah Fakoly performs in concert at Sala Apolo during Cruilla de Tardor Festival on November 06, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. COVID researchers who held an experimental music concert at the venue this month suggest none of the participants were infected while attending the gig. This photo was not taken during the trial. Xavi Torrent/Getty