France Will Organize Test Concerts Mixing Healthy Spectators With COVID-19 Positives To Reopen The Sector

With the aim of finding an appropriate model to celebrate concerts in the midst of the pandemic, France will organize three experiment-concerts –one in Paris and two in Marseille, between March and April– inspired by the clinical trial in the Sala Apolo in Barcelona and which took place in December. This was announced by the Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, at the beginning of the week, being “very optimistic” about concerts with a seated audience and “more pessimistic” in those in which the spectators are standing.

The announcement has given hope to the entertainment industry, which has been lobbying the government for weeks to reopen theaters, cinemas or concert halls, closed across France since the end of October. However, the conclusion of these scientific studies will depend on the health situation and will be carried out “as long as the situation is not catastrophic,” according to Roselyne Bachelot.


With the dates still to be specified, each concert will follow a different protocol in order to better assess the risk of contagion. In Paris, for example, a negative PCR will be required and spectators will be standing, while in Marseille the audience will remain seated and those who test positive for COVID-19 will be included before the performance. In all cases, the spectators will be young volunteers and it will be mandatory to wear a mask and use hydroalcoholic gel throughout the concert.

In both cities, in addition, the experiments will be supervised by public health entities: the National Institute for Health and Medicine Research (Inserm) in the case of Marseille and the Paris Public Hospitals (AP-HP) in the French capital. Subsequently, the conclusions of these trials will be analyzed at a conference with European scientists in Marseille, on April 8, to establish a safe model that can be replicated throughout the country.

The first scientific study will take place at the end of March in Marseille and will evaluate the results of two concerts with 1,000 attendees each. Both will be held in the Dôme concert hall, a venue with a capacity for 8,000 people. Volunteers must undergo a PCR test between 24 and 48 hours before the concert and two more tests after seven and 14 days of the show. Unlike the trial in the Sala Apolo in Barcelona, ​​those who test positive for COVID-19 will not be filtered to make the experiment as realistic as possible. There will be no social distance between half of the attendees either.

According to Vincent Estornel, a doctor and member of the group of experts that organizes the concerts in Marseille, the volunteers will be young people with no previous pathologies. “We will recruit students between the ages of 20 and 30 from the University of Aix-Marseille. Through a platform, they will have to fill out a form and accept a series of parameters. Obviously, entry will be free,” Estornel detailed this Thursday in an interview on the radio Europe1.

However, the fact of mixing positives with negatives generates doubts and concerns among students. “We are concerned that it could pose a danger to us and we want there to be guarantees,” explains Rémi, spokesman for the Aix-Marseille Solidarity Students Union, to this newspaper. “Although we are not considered a risk population, mixing with those infected with COVID-19 is risky. We prefer that issues such as student precariousness be solved, instead of organizing concerts. We feel like guinea pigs.”

According to the Ministry of Culture, the participation of those infected in this experiment is crucial. “We have to put ourselves in the situation,” said Roselyne Bachelot this week. Along the same lines, Vincent Estornel believes that “the concerts that have been held so far, such as the one in Barcelona or Germany, have not taken into account the real risk of possible outbreaks” while this experiment seeks “realistic results for realistic solutions” . This doctor also ensures that “all possible measures will be adapted to guarantee the safety of the public”, such as, for example, the mandatory use of FFP2 masks.

In Paris, the biggest challenge will be the number of attendees: the concert will bring together 5,000 volunteers at the AccorHotels Arena – popularly known as Bercy – with capacity for more than 20,000 people. In the pavilion, spectators will be standing throughout the concert, without limiting distances, but must show a negative PCR at the entrance, carried out 72 hours before the event.

Given the magnitude of the audience, the show in the French capital will be the largest experiment of its kind in Europe: the Sala Apolo in Barcelona brought together 463 attendees, Germany brought together just over 2,000 volunteers in a similar test carried out last August and Luxembourg will organize five rehearsal concerts with 100 attendees per performance starting next week.

In both Paris and Marseille, the criteria for these concerts have not yet been approved by the Ministry of Health, who will be in charge of approving the final version of the protocols for each trial. According to this department “the protocols are being defined by research teams” and to this day “they have not yet been validated by the health authorities.” The Ministry of Health also assures that any protocol should go through a “personal protection committee” to guarantee the safety of the participants.

After a day of meetings between the head of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, and several representatives of the festival and entertainment industry, the Ministry of Culture has announced that it will allow the celebration of festivals in summer: “Our goal is to have a season of festivals in 2021! “, exclaimed Bachelot on Twitter Thursday night. A news positively received by this sector, which has been designing a protocol together with the government for months. “There has been important progress,” says Aurélie Hannedouche, general delegate of the Syndicate de Musicas Actuales (SMA), to this newspaper. Hannedouche is one of the representatives who has been meeting with the Ministry of Culture for months to define this protocol and her entity represents more than 500 cultural centers, including 150 festivals.

In an official statement, the Ministry details a reinforced health protocol for festivals, both indoors and outdoors: the capacity will be limited to 5,000 attendees, the safety distance must be respected and the public will have to be seated. According to the report, “if the health situation deteriorates” the established capacity and protocol will be adjusted, while “if the situation improves, a capacity of more than 5,000 people may be raised or the public may be allowed to stand.”

Despite the progress of this week, Aurélie Hannedouche reveals that, from the sector, there are still many doubts: “We do not know from when we will be able to start organizing festivals, nor if bars and restaurants in the venues will be allowed. you have specified whether the social distance will be between individuals or between groups of people. ” Likewise, the Ministry of Culture proposes an aid of 30 million euros for festivals, an amount that the representatives consider unfeasible. “If we take into account that every year 6,000 festivals are held throughout the country, we have 100,000 euros per concert left. It is insufficient,” says Hannedouche.



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