Dutch experiment aims to revitalize the event sector
Want to enjoy a theater performance, live concert or football match during these times? In the Netherlands it is possible, for a little bit of luck. With eight ‘field experiments’, the event sector wants to learn how to reopen in a safer and better way.
Anyone who tuned in to the Dutch football match NEC – De Graafschap last weekend could experience something special. Not so much the football that both teams put on the mat – a mediocre NEC went home 1-2 at home – but in the stands. For the first time in five months, they were not empty, but (sparsely) populated with fans.
1,200 NEC supporters found their way to the Goffert, the stadium of the Nijmegen club on Sunday. They were admitted exceptionally as part of a corona experiment organized by Fieldlab Events.
This collaboration between the Dutch event sector and the government, supported by academic research institutions, is conducting eight such ‘field tests’. Last week, a business conference was organized with 500 visitors in the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht, and on Saturday a theater performance by cabaret artist Guido Weijers followed with 500 people in the hall.
In the coming weeks, a second football match, a pop concert and a dance party will follow in the Amsterdam event hall Ziggo Dome and two open-air festivals in Biddinghuizen.
The purpose of these experiments is to find out how an event will soon be able to safely receive more people as soon as it can be relaxed. In concrete terms, the studies examine eight possible ‘building blocks’. They can each contribute to map out a route to the safe reopening of the sector, explains Fieldlab spokesperson Tim Boersma.
The building blocks that are investigated include air quality, personal measures such as mouth masks, the behavior of people, the use of rapid tests or the effect of disinfecting surfaces. These parameters are examined in all kinds of ways.
With a tag we can accurately register to within 10 centimeters how people move at a trial event.
For example, a video is used to analyze whether people wear their mouth masks and whether they disinfect their hands when they enter, and how desirable behavior can be stimulated. All visitors also receive a ‘tag’ upon entering that registers their movements. ‘This allows us to register accurately to 10 centimeters where people go and stand and thus how many contacts they have and how long they last,’ explains Boersma.
Different visitors to the same event are divided into groups, each of which is given its own rule. For example, some football fans were asked to take a seat in the stands in a checkerboard pattern, with a seat in between. Other fans were given a pass to sing, yell at the referee, and fly into each other’s arms.
To ensure that all of this was done as safely as possible, each participant had to be able to submit a negative corona test that was no more than 48 hours old. Each participant is also asked to undergo a retest after the event and report any positive result.
All collected data is analyzed and delivered to the OMT (Outbreak Management Team) expert committee that assists the Dutch government in managing the pandemic. With the findings, which are expected three weeks after the test, the OMT can provide advice on what the government can allow in terms of events.
We want to find out which measures work in which type of setting.
The hope is that the data will provide enough evidence to allow more specific measures for the sector. ‘Today, generic measures apply about what is and is not possible for all types of events,’ says Boersma. ‘With our research we hope to be able to replace it with customization. We want to find out which measures work in which type of setting, in order to be able to receive more people safely again. ‘
The Dutch research is not the first of its kind. Previously, a concert was organized in Germany with thousands of attendees, in which measures such as ventilation, mouth masks, social distance and mobility were examined. A trial festival was also held in Barcelona, where visitors were allowed to dance for an evening after a quick test, with a mouth mask but no distance.
No similar test set-ups are planned in our country, but we are looking abroad with interest. Flemish Minister of Culture Jan Jambon (N-VA) said on Monday evening in ‘The appointment’ on Canvas that he is aware of the Dutch initiative and that his cabinet will soon contact Dutch colleagues to see whether our country can also learn from the test results. to give the Belgian event sector more perspective.
We can only applaud that Flanders wants to learn from the Netherlands.
Bruno Schaubroeck, spokesperson for the Alliance of Belgian Event Federations, is enthusiastic about this initiative. ‘If I have missed anything here in recent months, it is the power of positive thinking. Of thinking about what is possible instead of just about what is not possible. We can only applaud that Jambon wants to look at that now. We have an enormous amount of know-how here, for example in the field of crowd control. We are eager to put it into practice. ‘