Barcelona just gave the world a glimpse of what post-pandemic life could look like.
On Saturday, 5,000 rock fans packed into Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi concert hall to watch Love of Lesbian play a set. To get in, fans had to pass a same-day coronavirus test, and wear a medical-grade face mask provided by the concert organizers for the duration of the show.
"It's been a year and a half since we last set foot on a scenario as a band," singer Santi Balmes said to the crowd in between songs, according to The Guardian. "Some of the musicians are crying over here."
The concert in Barcelona, which was backed by local authorities and by experts of the Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation, is part of a larger effort to test health and safety measures for festivals and gatherings across Europe ahead of the summer season. As The New York Times reported, similar trial concerts have already taken place in other countries and the United Kingdom is set to host its own trials next month.
If you ignore the masks, the images from the event in Barcelona could truly look like they were from days gone by, when the term "social distancing" meant absolutely nothing. However, Ventura Barba, the executive director of the Sonar festival and one of the Barcelona event organizers, told The New York Times that while the concert was "a small but important step toward normality," it was by no means the answer to all our problems. That's because, as Barba explained, this concert was "not a commercial project," and would be lucky if it broke even due to the cost of testing and masking. Barba said ticket sales accounted for just 36% of the concert's budget of about €250,000 (roughly $294,000 USD). Another 30% was covered by public authorities so they could test the effectiveness of the safety measures, 24% from private sponsors, and 10% from Barba and the other promoters.
As for what's next, the AFP news agency reported that all the concert-goers will stay in touch with officials, who will track any active COVID-19 outbreaks to see if the testing, masking, and temperature checks were enough. While this may seem like a nightmare scenario, the Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation organized a smaller concert of 500 people in December using the same methods without a single coronavirus infection. Dr. Josep Maria Llibre told AFP, they expect the same at this event.
"We expect it to be completely safe," he said. "Over the next 14 days, we will look at how many of the audience test positive for Covid and will report back."
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