Ever since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered clubs, bars and concert halls around the world, music fans have been dreaming of the day they can once again visit a busy, sweaty venue to enjoy a gig with friends.

With infection rates rising in many European countries, this dream could be far off for now. But some music fans in Leipzig, Germany, have been given the chance to rock for a day in the name of science — with the help of some glowing hand sanitizer and electronic trackers.

Researchers in Leipzig staged a 1,500-person experimental indoor concert on Saturday to better understand how Covid-19 spreads at big, busy events, and how to prevent it.

At the gig, which featured a live performance from musician Tim Bendzko, fans were given respiratory face masks, fluorescent hand gel and electronic “contact trackers” — small transmitters that determine the contact rates and contact distances of the individual experiment participants.

Using data from the contact trackers, scientists from The University of Halle will monitor the number of “critical contacts” had by each participant during specific times and locations, while the residue left by fluorescent hand gel will identify frequently touched surfaces. Researchers hope to use the data to find ways to bring big events, including sports, back safely.

Professor Michael Gekle, the dean of the university’s medical faculty and a professor of physiology, said the experiment was being conducted to better prepare authorities on how to conduct events in the upcoming autumn and winter seasons.

“We cannot afford another lockdown,” he said. “We have to gather the data now in order to be able to make valid predictions,” he said.
“There is no zero risk if you want to have life. We want to give the politicians a tool in order to decide rationally whether to allow such an event or not. That means they have to have the tool to predict how many additional infected people such an event will produce.”

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