The coronavirus pandemic continues to hamper progress in the reopening of several industries, not the least the Events business. Though we continue to successfully move programmes online, there’s no denying just how much everyone’s been missing live events, not to mention the economic downfall arising from the shuttering of conferences and exhibitions. Measures like temperature checks at entry points and enforcement of social distancing rules aid in screening the sick, but aren’t definitive in establishing if a person is virus-free.
However, in a key development, Austria Center Vienna has embarked on a pilot project in September, during which it carried out around 2,000 rapid Covid-19 tests to show that the process could dramatically improve the safety of events. Susanne Baumann-Söllner, managing director of the Austria Center Vienna, called the new testing system “practicable from an organisational point of view” and said that the project was met with much enthusiasm. Austria Center Vienna launched the pilot in partnership with the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund and medical products wholesaler Alpstar. The Center will make their findings and key insights public, allowing associations to use the information for future events.
Through this pilot project, important parameters such as the testing time, required number of staff and test lanes and time slots for participants were revealed. Based on the 30 seconds it took to take the throat swab, each test lane was equipped with one medical expert to conduct the test, and three assistants to support the test subjects and prepare the solution. A paramedic team was on standby to quickly manage positive cases. On the whole, it was reported that the process of conducting a single test from sample collection to receiving the result took around 6-10 minutes as opposed to the expected 15 minutes.
Eliminating the source of infection through 10-15 min Covid-19 screening tests at entry points greatly increases safety at gatherings
The test subjects included staff members, employees of partner companies, journalists and students. Out of the total 2,000 tests, five tested positive. They were immediately isolated and administered an additional PCR test for confirmation, following which they were sent home for quarantine.
However, it quickly became apparent that at multi-day events, rapid tests must be carried out on a daily basis, as one person from the sample group tested positive for Covid-19 on the second day, confirming that antigen testing is not a reliable indicator for viral load.
Even though the project is in the initial stages, what makes it stand apart from other initiatives is its applicability. Through 10-15 minute tests, attendees can be specifically and effectively screened for Covid-19 at entry points. By eliminating the source of infection – hailed as the Holy Grail of quarantine efforts, and by promoting hygiene among the audience for the duration of events, gatherings suddenly appear achievable in the current situation.