Scientists in Germany have announced plans for a massive experiment to study the ways in which infectious particles travel at large gatherings. The study will reportedly have direct implications on the country’s reinstatement large social gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus.
The experiment will recruit 4,000 people to attend a show by singer-songwriter Tim Bendzko at a concert hall in Leipzig. There, they will be equipped with tracking technology as well as fluorescent disinfectant to track the spread of germs and disease.
The experiment, set to take place on August 22nd, will see 4,000 volunteers file into the 12,000-person seated venue and don matchstick-sized “contact tracers” around their necks that will record their interception of germs. Additionally, each of the 18-to 50-year-old participants will receive a portion of fluorescent disinfectant that, in addition to protecting against germs, will also leave trace elements detectable by UV light. This will allow scientists to determine from which surfaces germ transmissions are most likely to occur.
Researches will also utilize vapors from a fog machine in order to help visualize the spread of virus particles. These results will then be compared to computer-generated models made prior to the event in order to see how the data line up with the current scientific consensus. All attendees will be sent a test kit that must be administered at a doctor’s office 48 hours before the event. No attendees will be admitted without proof of a negative test, and everyone in attendance will be required to wear ventilated masks the entire time.
The state-sponsored experiment, which will cost an estimated €990,000, seeks to “identify a framework” for how mass gatherings can return “without posing a danger to the population” in Germany after September 30th, when many of the country’s safeguards expire. Currently, concerts with more than 1,000 attendees are banned throughout the country until the end of August.
“We are trying to find out if there could be a middle way between the old and the new normal that would allow organisers to fit enough people into a concert venue to not make a loss,” said experiment coordinator Stefan Moritz.
Researchers will examine three different concert entry scenarios at the event in order to inform the country’s reopening protocols. In the first, operations will run just as they did before with everybody entering and exiting through the same two points and sitting as the normally would. In the second, “optimized” scenario, they will enter through eight doors to reduce contact, and every second seat will be vacant. Finally, in the third scenario, only 2,000 people will be allowed in and they will be forced to sit 1.5 meters apart.
Scientists hope to have the data prepared a month after the event and present their findings to the government in early October.
[H/T The Guardian]