Dutch dance lovers offered lockdown relief at test event

People attend a music event at Ziggo Dome venue, which opened its doors to small groups of people that have been tested negative of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Amsterdam, Netherlands March 6, 2021. Picture taken March 6, 2021. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dance music lovers in Amsterdam were offered a short relief from COVID-19 lockdown on Saturday, treated to their first live show in over a year while serving as guinea pigs in a research project.

A total of 1,300 people were allowed at a carefully orchestrated test event in Amsterdam's biggest music hall, the ZiggoDome, which in normal times has a capacity of up to 17,000.

Dancing to tunes delivered by Dutch DJs Sam Feldt, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano and others, the fans were followed in all their movements and contacts through a tag they were made to wear, in an effort to see how events might safely be opened up for the public again.

"It's unbelievable. I feel like a kid, I was jumping and screaming walking in", Sunnery James told Reuters before his show.

"Hopefully we can show governments around the world that we can make this happen."

All guests needed to test negative for coronavirus 48 hours in advance and were urged to take another test five days after the event.

Inside, they were divided into six groups, all with different guidelines on social distancing and face masks and with varying degrees of freedom to move around.

Government advisers will use the data on their behaviour to inform decisions on possibly easing lockdown in coming months.

"We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues", organiser Tim Boersma said.

"Measures are now generic, allowing for instance a maximum of 100 guests at any event if coronavirus infections drop to a certain level. We hope for more specific measures, such as allowing the ZiggoDome to open at half its capacity."

The dance festival is part of a series of government-backed test events which also includes a business conference, two football matches and a comedy show, all with different rules for different groups, to see what works best.

The Dutch government last week gradually eased lockdown measures, as it allowed a limited reopening of non-essential stores and secondary schools, even though infections have been rising in recent weeks as more contagious virus mutations take hold.

All bars and restaurants in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-October, while a nationwide 9:00 P.M. to 4.30 A.M. curfew has been in place for the past six weeks.

(Reporting by Hilde Verweij and Bart Meijer; Editing by David Gregorio)

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