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Successful test events in Spa and Namur

Photo from KVS

No positive cases of Covid-19 were detected seven days after test events in Spa and Namur, neither among the participants nor the control group, the company in charge of testing at these shows announced on Friday.

These first two events are part of the six pilot experiments organised in the cultural sector by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, and were managed by DNAlytics.

“These are of course preliminary results for these first two experiments, however, they are very encouraging,” said Thibault Helleputte, CEO of DNAlytics.

“In the case of Spa, they establish quantitatively that the organisation of an indoor concert can be envisaged with safety, according to an audience size of 50% of the hall’s capacity and by applying the barrier gestures that have become familiar to us. In the case of Namur, the results show that, provided some basic health rules are followed, attendance at a show is not associated with a measurable increase in coronavirus contamination.”

The idea was to test an indoor event with strict protocols, and an outdoor one with laxer measures.

For the first experiment, the Petit Théâtre de Spa hosted a concert by the group Ykons on 7 May, held indoors at 50% capacity with a masked audience of 190 people seated in bubbles 1.5 metres apart, and participants were given rapid tests at the entrance.

The 109 people that made up the technical team, the artists, the reception staff and the guest officials were also tested.

All of these rapid tests were negative, and therefore no one who came was excluded from the event.

Saliva samples were analysed by the ULiège laboratory using the PCR technique. No positive cases were detected on the day of the event, and the tests carried out 7 days after the event on the participants of both groups, who turned up in sufficient numbers to guarantee the reliability of the results, also proved negative.

In the case of Namur’s test event on 12 May, an outdoor performance was held for 256 people, all wearing masks and seated just one metre apart, a distance smaller than the standards currently imposed.

There were 150 people in the control group, plus 144 members of the technical teams, artists, reception staff and guest officials.

All were tested, and only one positive case – a member of the technical staff – was detected. No positive cases were reported among the participants or the control group. Tests carried out 7 days after the event on participants from both groups were also all negative.

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Minister for Culture in the Walloon-Brussels Federation, Bénédicte Linard, said that the Spa event confirmed that rigorous preventative measures work for indoor events, and the more lax Namur event proves outdoor events don’t need the same strict social distancing rules in order to be safe.

“All of these experiments, by testing several methods and types of shows, aim to go further than the existing protocols which already allow for the gradual resumption of culture,” said Linard.

“Our aim is to move towards a sustainable and financially viable recovery for the cultural world, thanks to objective and scientifically proven elements that will enable access to all culture to be maintained, whatever happens in the future.”

Similar test events organised by the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS) were also deemed a success, with stakeholders urging a full reopening of the cultural sector in light of this new evidence.

The Brussels Times