How scientists can help tell if someone caught the virus at a nightclub

Crowds totalling over 13,000 people were in high spirits at two pilot events in Liverpool at the Circus nightclub and the Sefton Park Pilot music festival in early May. These were part of the UK’s Events Research Programme, giving audiences a taste of the old norm – gathering with no social distancing or face coverings – to see what effect mass events might have on the spread of the coronavirus.

Attendees had to have a recent negative rapid lateral flow test to show they were unlikely to have COVID-19. But no test is perfect – all COVID-19 tests, including lateral flow tests, will miss some cases. It was therefore possible that some attendees were infected and could have infected others. If similar events are to reopen soon, it’s important to know just how great this risk is.

Testing and statistics have helped us find this out. Each attendee took their lateral flow test in the 36 hours leading up to the event. They were then asked to take a different type of test (a PCR test, using a kit at home that is sent to a lab for analysis) both on the day of the event and five days later.


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