Up to 3,500 people will be able to attend this year’s Eurovision Song Contest as part of a trial to see how to reopen venues during the pandemic, the Dutch government has announced.
Last year’s edition was cancelled as Europe was in the throes of the first wave of the pandemic. This year’s contest is to be held in Rotterdam from May 18 to 22 following Dutch singer Duncan Laurence’s victory in the 2019 competition.
The size of the audience will be dependent on the epidemiological situation at the time, the government has said. Spectators will also have to follow conditions including presenting a negative COVID-19 test.
Eurovision organiser EBU has welcomed the announcement.
“We will consider the options now available and announce more details in the coming weeks on how we can safely admit audiences to the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam should the situation allow. The health and safety of all those attending the event remains our top priority.”
“As previously announced, all delegations, artists and production crew will be following a strict protocol and would not come contact with potential members of the audience under any circumstances,” it added in a statement.
Two “FieldLab” trials have already been held in the Netherlands. Last month, more than 1,300 were able to attend a concert and 5,000 were allowed to watch an international football match.
Media Minister Arie Slob said that “with the lessons we can learn from FieldLab, we hope we can take new steps towards a society in which more can be done.”
Similar trials have also been held in Spain, where 5,000 people were allowed to attend a rock concert last weekend.
The Netherlands is currently under a national lockdown with hospitality businesses and cultural venues closed. Other restrictions in place to battle the third wave of the pandemic in Europe include a nighttime curfew, a ban on gatherings and international travel
Last week, more than 51,800 cases were confirmed – up from 46,000 the week before. The number of deaths attributed to the pandemic also rose to 317 from 223 the previous week, according to official figures.
The country of 17.2 million people had by March 28 administered 1.7 million COIVD jabs, with 700,000 people fully vaccinated.