Dr Josep Maria Llibre, one of the doctors in charge of the successful PRIMA-CoV pilot concert, with pre-event testing, in Barcelona says there is no reason it cannot be rolled out to festivals.

In an interview with Access, Llibre (pictured) said the initiative had proven a great success, with none of the 463 people who attended the show, without social distancing, contracting Covid-19. Among the findings was that antigen tests are more suitable than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

The event, which was organised by the promoter of the  50,000-capacity Primavera Sound Barcelona festival, took place in the Spanish city on 12 December at the Sala Apolo theatre (cap. 1,608). During the five-hour event, which involved four performances, singing and dancing was permitted throughout.

Prior to being admitted to the venue all participants had been tested negative for Covid-19. The PRIMA-CoV clinical study was carried out in collaboration with the Foundation for the Fight against AIDS and Infectious Diseases, and the Germans Trias i Pujol University Hospital

Following the event, Primavera reported the experiment showed “attendance at a live concert performed under a list of safety measures including same-day screening of SARS-CoV-2 antigen test with a negative result was not associated with an increased risk of Covid-19 infection”. Is there any reason that this testing model cannot be used successfully for large outdoor festivals such as Primavera Sound Barcelona? Surely an outdoor environment would be even safer?

Yes, the test can potentially be used at any event. We confirmed that the antigen test is better than the PCR to detect subjects with the potential to transmit the infection. Out of the 1,047 subjects screened, all with a negative antigen test, 34 of them had a positive high sensibility viral test (TMA, similar to a PCR), and three of them had a positive standard PCR. SARS-CoV-2 virus could not be cultured in nose samples from any of them. So, no one could transmit the infection.

Furthermore, the test is quicker, just 10 minutes, and does not require a high-tech lab. It is also substantially cheaper. It could, and should, be used in schools, concerts, or any events that involve the gathering of a high number of people. Outdoor activities are safer, as you say, and events where people are sitting are safer as well.

Can the testing system be streamlined so that it is affordable for festival operators, not only in terms of the cost of the tests but also the manpower needed?

Yes, it is just a matter of organising the screening. It is not easy but it is affordable. The test is cheap, less than €10 [£8.78]. It is bit more complicated to organise same-day testing, but we did it and it could be repeated. It’s a much better option than closing all the events.

“It is a bit more complicated to organise same-day testing, but we did it and it could be repeated. It’s a much better option than closing all the events.”

How time consuming and labour intensive is a testing system such as this?

The test takes 10 min. To screen 1,000 people in one morning we had 50 nurses involved in the study. Now that we have done it, we know that probably 25 should have been enough. It’s just a matter of organising the assistants to avoid crowding and queues.

For a festival, do you think a testing scheme such as the one you were involved in would cause issues on the day in terms of delaying access to the site for ticket holders?

We were, to an extent, running against the clock. It could also have been done in the afternoon of the day before the event. We also screened about 120 workers, including security crew, bartenders, organisers and performers.

Now you have conducted the test and the results are established, what is the next stage? Are you talking to government and authorities to show that testing is a solution to get events running again?

Yes. First, we are going to publish the complete study results in a medical journal and report them at an international medical conference. The information will then be made available to government authorities all over the world. There is a lot of interest.