By H. Esteves
Is it too soon to be hopeful?
People tend to have varying opinions on how, when and even if the pandemic will end, with some being more pessimistic than others. Add on the constant flow of information that we receive—and sometimes false information, I might add—it is hard to construct an accurate judgement of the situation.
Nevertheless, there is one important event that may be appearing more commonly throughout the world over the next few months, and it may just be one of the steps to the normal world that we are all reminiscing about. In Barcelona, a large concert took place in a COVID-safe environment—similar to nostalgic memories from before 2020. All of the fans, roughly 5000 people, were tested with antigen tests on the same day. Also, before attending the testing centres, the fans were screened for COVID-19 and had to share information with the Health Ministry to minimize contamination. High-risk groups were not allowed to attend. At the concert itself at the Palau de Sant Jordi, other than being complied to wear the surgical masks provided and to have temperature checks at the entrance, there were virtually no safety measures. As can be seen by the picture, people were free to bump into each other as much as they wanted to.
The event was hosted more as an experiment than anything else, and it was backed by the Fight with AIDs And Infectious Diseases Foundation and had approval of the government. A similar concert was held with 500 people back in December, and the objective of these is to determine whether it is possible to host these large events through mass testing. All of the concertgoers are obliged to inform the organizers if they are contaminated over the next 15-days, and the data will be compared with the infection rates of the population of Barcelona and Spain to determine whether the concert influenced the infections.
On the other hand, it is important to mention that events like this will have downsides. Of course, it is possible that there are some people carrying the virus but have only recently received it, so the tests give a negative result, but the person can contaminate others. Eventually, it may occur that sick people give false negative results due to a lab failure. With both of these possibilities in mind, with a large number of people, it will be very difficult to manage the spread of the disease. Nonetheless, the environment at the concert was just about as controlled as can be, but still these failures might creep in.
Considering this, when will it be truly safe for such events to happen in Brazil? At the moment Brazil is in a state several times worse than Spain, it basically is the epicentre of the pandemic. Before any events like this, the situation needs to be more controlled, as is this the case with Spain. Spain has about 4,000 new cases every day, whereas Brazil is having 3,000 new deaths every day. Therefore, depending on the success of the experiment, it may be possible that these events are hosted in Brazil in 2-4 months, when the situation is somewhat equal to that of Spain.
Around the world, with vaccinations becoming more widespread and hospitals having less of a burden, this may be one of the first steps to the end of the pandemic, or at least a step to bring back the, now nostalgic, sense of normality.