• The five-hour experiment in Barcelona included 500 people
  • It was done to test same-day COVID-19 tests' efficacy
  • Same-day COVID-19 tests are faster but are said to be less accurate

Barcelona conducted a concert for 500 people Saturday. However, the event wasn't held just to ease the minds of the residents who have been following strict COVID-19 protocols for months but was conducted as part of a study, where the concertgoers were volunteers.

On Saturday, 1,000 people gathered for a free concert at the Apolo Theater in Barcelona, the Associated Press reported. Although this sounds counter-intuitive during a time when COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to increase, the concert was actually part of an experiment to see whether same-day tests could help make large events "safe enough" before the vaccines roll out.

This is because even if such rapid tests are considered to be less accurate compared to other coronavirus tests such as the "gold standard" polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, they yield results much faster and could, ideally, help jumpstart large gatherings again.

As part of the study, which the Associated Press said was organized by Barcelona's The Fight AIDS and Infectious Diseases Foundation and approved by authorities in northeast Catalonia, all 1,000 volunteers have to take two PCR tests, the first one before the concert and the other eight days after. From the volunteers, 500 who passed a rapid coronavirus test were chosen to attend the concert while the rest were sent home to be the control group.

During the event, the concertgoers had to wear face masks and use hand sanitizers, but social distancing was not enforced to recreate a more realistic concert setting. As such, they were able to dance close to each other and even give each other hugs, the Associated Press reported. There was also an area where they could remove their masks for a drink.

The idea, according to virologist Dr. Boris Revollo, who set up the study protocols, is to see whether anyone who was actually positive for the virus "got past" the rapid test. And if they did, whether they ended up infecting other concertgoers.

"This is not a party, this is a scientific study," Revollo told the Associated Press. "This could be useful in all types of events, from cultural events to business congresses, to sporting events."

He did clarify to the outlet that the tests still do not replace protocols such as using face masks, but that using them could safely help restart such large gatherings again.

However, epidemiologist Joan Caylà, who was not involved in the study, noted the importance of keeping such events "small and highly controlled" despite the use of same-day tests.

"It is very important that those attending the event act responsibly," Caylà told the Associated Press. "A certain risk of causing an outbreak exists."

Recently, for instance, Royal Caribbean had to halt its first trip since shutting down its operations because of the pandemic after an 83-year-old passenger tested positive for the virus. This was despite a series of strict safety protocols including a PCR test before boarding the ship, enhanced cleaning procedures, social distancing, and mask-wearing protocols. The cruise was also operating at half the usual capacity with over 1,600 passengers.

Fortunately, the case was quickly identified and the close contacts of the 83-year-old reportedly tested negative for the virus.

Pictured: Representative image of the audience at a concert. Pixabay