With the blessing of the government, a group of 50 people took part, last Saturday (6) and Sunday (8), in walks in Amsterdam as if there was no pandemic.
Of the approximately 1,500 others who danced in front of the DJs, they did not wear masks, did not have to keep their distance, walked wherever they liked on the dance floor and between tables and had free access to the bar. They also won a fluorescent drink and were encouraged to sing and shout.
The privileged were among one of six groups in an experiment whereby Dutch authorities want to explore the safest ways to get back to normal. In February, the organizers had already organized a congress and a theater performance, both with 500 participants, and two football matches, with respectively 1,153 and 1,351 spectators.
To enter the clubs, you had to be outside of risk groups and have a negative test for the coronavirus carried out no more than 48 hours before. Participants also had their temperature measured at the entrance and are invited to take a second test five days later.
The experiments were designed by virologist Andreas Voss, from Radboud University Medical Center and a member of the Dutch Pandemic Management Team (OMT), and several Dutch universities are participating in the study, which will also include two outdoor festivals. and a pop concert. .
So far, the results are encouraging, says Tim Boersma, a spokesperson for Fieldlab (who is leading the experiment). In the first two events, there was no infection among those who underwent the tests (80% of the participants). Among the spectators of the first match, one person received a positive result. The result of the second match is not yet ready.
At Ziggo Dome, a nightclub in Amsterdam, in addition to the 50 ‘past visitors’ there were five groups of crown-era attendees: some wore a mask all the time, another only on the go. Access to the bar was restricted and some had predetermined places to sit and dance.
Some participants were followed by observers and the games were filmed with a technology called dynamic crowd measurement, which facilitates the analysis of movements. All of them had an electronic tag that records contacts with an accuracy of 10 centimeters and allows you to calculate the number of meetings and their duration. In the case of the 50 freed balladeurs, the dispersion of the droplets of saliva was also followed, using the fluorescent drink.
Boersma says one of the main goals is to better calibrate the reopening of social places. The Ziggo Dome, for example, has a capacity of 17,000 people, but according to the rules in force in the Netherlands, meetings can only take place up to 100 people (minimum space guaranteed between them).
On Saturday, the party gathered 1,578 people at the disco, including employees and volunteers who paid 15 euros (around R $ 100) for the ticket. On Sunday, there were 1,482. Over 100,000 interested people accessed the page and seats sold out in 20 minutes.
In addition to the limits imposed on most groups, the time for the experimental ballads was atypical: from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., to respect the national curfew, from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Ultimately, everyone is advised to limit their social activities for up to 10 days, in order to minimize the risk of contagion.
In each of the events, the researchers test several variables, such as how to prevent infected people from participating, how best to track contacts later, and how to influence public behavior – in ballads, for example, one One of the observations was that a portion of those who should have worn a mask removed their protection when they started dancing.
Factors such as indoor air quality, the effect of the dynamics of events (number and duration of contacts, salivary dispersion) on the risk of transmission are also studied.
At the end of the experimentation cycle, pilot events of four different types will have been studied: 1) internal passive, with controlled visitors, such as congresses, concerts and cinema; 2) internal active, when participants can shout or sing, as in ballads; 3) external assets, such as sports games or outdoor concerts and 4) festivals.
In the latter, in the definition of the organizers, “the visitors are enthusiastic, have exuberant fun, dance, laugh and talk”. “They circulate and gather in various places”.
About three weeks after each event, the results are shared with the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment and the UNWTO. On this basis, the health authorities will make recommendations for the next stages of reopening.
With 4,500 new cases on average over the past week, the Netherlands sees the epidemic more under control compared to the peak of 11,000 cases recorded in December, but it is still far from below 100 per week in May and June of last year. The country has recorded an average of 39 deaths in the past seven days, up from more than 150 deaths in April last year. In this second wave, the highest number was in January: 106 deaths.
Until Sunday, the Dutch government had administered 5.9 doses of vaccine per 100 inhabitants, below the European Union average.