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Thousands infected at ‘COVID-safe’ music festivals in Catalonia, Spain

Events had 'role to play' in Spanish region's dramatic 5th wave of infections, says official

Alyssa McMurtry   | 04.08.2021
Thousands infected at ‘COVID-safe’ music festivals in Catalonia, Spain FILE PHOTO

OVIEDO, Spain

Nearly 2,300 people who attended three music festivals in Catalonia this summer contracted COVID-19, the regional government said on Wednesday.

The Vida, Canet Rock, and Cruilla music festivals were marketed as “COVID-safe” for including measures such as rapid tests on entry and mandatory face masks.

However, a study revealed that the safety measures at the music festivals were not enough to keep contagions at bay, at a time when the virus was spreading exponentially among Spain’s young population.

The study by the Catalonia government found that the approximately 50,000 people who attended the events were around twice as likely to have contracted COVID-19 than those of a similar age in control groups.

Carmen Cabezas, a senior Catalan public health official, said the festivals had a “role to play” in the region’s dramatic fifth wave of infections, albeit limited.

Although some of the music festivals went on even after Catalonia shut down nightclubs to curb the spread of the virus, they were based on a testing model found to have been successful at previous pilot events.

“The variant was different [during the pilot projects] and the conditions at the music festivals were harder to control. The Delta variant is much more transmissible and sometimes negative tests give people a false sense of security,” Cabezas said at a news conference.

Earlier in July, Catalan Health Minister Josep Maria Argimon said it was “a mistake” to have held the government-sanctioned festivals.

“Although we’re still waiting on the results, the events gave people an idea that things were more normal than they were,” he told Spanish daily El Pais.

Catalonia has been the epicenter of Spain’s fifth wave, which had the largest impact on the younger, unvaccinated population.

Although contagions there appear to have peaked, 47% of the region’s intensive care units are still occupied by COVID-19 patients.

In total, 3,067 coronavirus patients are hospitalized in Catalonia, according to Spanish Health Ministry data from Tuesday.

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