More than 1,000 Barcelona residents gathered Saturday to participate in a medical study to evaluate the effectiveness of same-day COVID-19 testing to safely hold cultural events.
There were 500 participants randomly selected to enjoy a free concert in Barcelona's Apolo Theatre. The other 500 participants were sent home to form a control group.
The participants all passed an antigen test screening before attending so scientists can determine if the screening prevents COVID-19 infections at large events.
Carolina Rius said that she was willing to accept the risk so she could experience a concert without distancing.
“I really, really missed going to concerts, above all to hear some rock ’n’ roll,” the 56-year-old Rius said. “I don’t feel like a guinea pig. I feel like I am taking a stand. The world of culture, and above all the concert halls, are having a very bad time of it and I don’t want them to shut for good.
“And if they end up choosing me in the draw to go to a concert, that will be the cherry on top.”
The study is organised by Barcelona's The Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation along with the Primavera Sound music festival. It was given the green light from regional authorities in Catalonia.
"This is not a party, this is a scientific study," Dr. Boris Revollo, the virologist who designed the study’s protocols, told The Associated Press.
He said that the same-day antigen testing, which is faster but less accurate than the PCR tests, could be a tool to help make large events safe until vaccines are widespread enough to prevent infection.
"This could be useful in all types of events, from cultural events, to business congresses, to sporting events," Revollo said. "And young people, as we have seen, are holding their own clandestine parties because they have no other outlet."
Though masks were required during the five-hour music festival, social distancing was not enforced.
The face masks stayed put except in the upstairs bar where organisers allowed them to be removed to have the one drink volunteers were treated to. Some people indulged in hugs with friends.
The 1,000 volunteers will undergo two PCR tests, which better detect the virus than the antigen test. The PCR tests will determine if infected people passed the antigen screening.
Spain is still under limited restrictions for the pandemic that has killed a confirmed 47,600 residents.
Cultural venues and concert halls have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 restrictions.
In November, an association representing concert halls in Spain said that more than 25,000 shows had been cancelled because of the pandemic, costing the industry €120 million in lost revenue.