Fieldlab recipe for return of live events


Dutch Fieldlab initiative Image: Fieldlab Evenemerlen

The findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of COVID-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home, organizer Fieldlab Evenementen has revealed.

‘IQ’ stated that Fieldlab – an initiative of the Dutch Government and several trade bodies, including the pan-industry Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers (Alliance of Event Builders) – kicked off its Back to Live series of test events in February, with the most recent event, the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam (Netherlands), taking place on May 22nd with 3,500 fans in tow. Other Fieldlab events included business conferences, festivals, arena shows, an awards ceremony, and outdoor sports events in a range of formats and capacities.

The results from the first phase of the Back to Live pilots – all small, ‘type-one’ events with assigned seats, including a conference and a comedy show – were released in April, and showed that these types of events are safe without social distancing at 50 percent capacity.

‘IQ’ further stated that more significantly, the findings released this week by Fieldlab, which draw on events such as a 1,300-person arena show and two 1,500-person festivals and organized by promoters Mojo and ID&T, conclude that shows may return safely at 100 percent capacity, even under the Netherlands’ ‘concern’ (zorgelijk) coronavirus risk level.

Based on Fieldlab’s research, led by Professor Andreas Voss of the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, the organization has now issued a series of recommendations, or a ‘matrix’, to the Dutch Government demonstrating how festivals and other live events can be held safely this summer. A final report, which will also include infection figures from Eurovision, will be issued soon.

The Eurovision Song Contest, sometimes abbreviated to ESC and often known simply as Eurovision, is an international song competition organized annually by the European Broadcasting Union which features participants representing primarily European countries.

According to the Back to Live data, 100 percent-capacity events are possible under the Netherlands’ lower two risk levels (caution and concern), with a reduction in capacity necessary for levels three and four (serious and severe, respectively).

By risk level, Fieldlab’s recommendations are:

  • Caution: 100 percent capacity. Only indoor concerts and outdoor festivals require rapid pre-event testing, though theaters and other indoor locations indoors must have adequate ventilation;
  • Concern: With adequate ventilation, theater shows, concerts with seated audiences and business conferences, and seminars may take place without rapid testing, dependent on proper ventilation. Pre-event testing is recommended for non-seated concerts, festivals and sporting events;
  • Serious: Seated events may take place at 75 percent capacity, with all visitors tested beforehand. Festivals are possible, albeit under strict conditions and with some degree of social distancing; and
  • Severe: It is “not advisable” to organize festivals. Concerts should be held only with seated audiences and at a maximum capacity of 50 percent.

Riemer Rijpkema, a spokesperson for corporate events association Eventplatform and Deputy Chair of Fieldlab’s steering group, calls on the Dutch Government to act on Fieldlab’s conclusions – “Fieldlab Evenementen have delivered great results to the Cabinet, as well as concrete tools on how to act in each phase of the pandemic. We call on the members of the Cabinet to adopt this matrix, embrace and use it for reformulating the regulations. There is a wealth of information from which one can learn in both the short and long term. We can now open, and as an industry need never be completely closed again.”

Willem Westermann of the Alliance of Event Builders, which represents live entertainment and sports professionals, adds, “The Cabinet now has in their hands the key to give the green light for the festival summer. The Fieldlab researchers have shown that this can be done, with additional measures and if we consider the risk level. Practical tests have shown that visitors are quite prepared, for example, to cooperate by having a rapid test beforehand. If the infrastructure for testing is properly put in place and the Cabinet endorses these conclusions, there is almost nothing in the way of a great summer for the events industry.”

While the majority of Dutch regions are still in level four (severe), this should come down as the Netherlands’ vaccine rollout continues. The Government’s most recent weekly report on infection figures, issued on May 25th, shows a “steady” downward trend in new cases of coronavirus.

Fieldlab’s Dimitri Bonthuis says the team are “very happy with the results” from the Back to Live events.

He added, “It is absolutely good news. Provided you take the right measures, the risk of getting infected at a Fieldlab event is the same as at home.”

The Fieldlab results follow similar positive data out of studies in the UK, Spain and Germany, all of which showed that live events do not pose a risk to public health while COVID-19 is still a threat.

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