German study: Concert halls are safe when half-full

German study: Concert halls are safe when half-full


norman lebrecht

January 12, 2021

A pioneering study conducted for the Dortmund Konzerthaus shows an encouragingly low risk of corona infection inside concert halls.


In November 2020, extensive measurements were made in the auditorium and the foyer of the concert hall. The evaluations of the experimental investigations show that, especially in the hall, under the given conditions, the risk of spreading infections through aerosol transmission can almost be ruled out. Above all, the existing central ventilation system and the wearing of mouth and nose protection reduce the aerosol and CO2 pollution significantly, so that theoretically full occupancy in the hall would be conceivable.

However, taking into account the access routes and foyers, it is recommended that the hall be occupied in a chessboard pattern and thus 50% of the hall capacity. In addition to concrete results for a visit to the Dortmund Concert Hall, the study can also provide information for other concert halls or theaters of a similar size.

NRW Minister of Culture and Science Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen said: “The issue of ventilation is a decisive factor for the reopening of cultural institutions. The study by the Dortmund Concert Hall is therefore a valuable component in the effort to enable music to be played even in times of pandemic. … It is painful that the still high number of infections does not currently allow reopening. It is all the more important to create perspectives and planning security for the time after the lockdown.’

photo: Simeon Klein



  • mary says:

    They are even safer when completely empty.

    • Karl says:

      And people are safest when they stay in their homes and never leave. They could get hit by lightning, a car or a bowling ball dropped from a building. Stay safe, stay home!!

    • Kenneth says:

      And the virus can’t affect us if we’re dead either! Brilliant!

    • William of Urbana says:

      …for all definitions of ‘safe’ that omit poverty-related health problems of musicians.

      We need to measure *all* the impacts at different levels of mitigation, over all the various mitigations available for each impact, and then choose mitigations of each impact accordingly, which will entail more and less of different kinds of mitigation as effects of each impact change as the pandemic cycle progresses.

      Sorry, I’m an engineer, and we tend to rant about process too much…

    • ilker says:

      not true – since the first lockdown in switzerland the number of covid infections in (any!!)culture audience (measured by contact tracing) was “0”; Salzburg Festival in austria : “0”, and so on… many operahouses and other venues have proven that the security concepts for the audience are efficient.
      The daily visit in supermarkets, shopping malls, public transport are much more of danger than sitting at a numbered seat where you remain silent without talking and look at one direction only…

    • Tamino says:

      Suicide is the very best option, and safest.

  • Another orchestral musician says:

    Well, this brings us a little hope, at last…!

  • Birchley Poundbottom says:

    Well unless my safety can be 100% completely guaranteed and all death eliminated forever I, for one, will not be setting foot inside one of those death traps.

  • Frank says:

    But…. This study of course didn’t take the new mutation into account, so how are we supposed to use this information?

  • CYM says:

    Safe when half-full !? But which half ?

  • JussiB says:

    So are restaurants, but the leftist liberals won’t tell you that or any supporting scientific data.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      Actually, indoor dining has been established as a site of transmissions. The devil is in the details of occupancy rate, seating arrangement, and ventilation. Certainly, not all settings are equally hazardous (or safe) — that no doubt also applies to concert venues.

    • Jeff K says:

      Viruses don’t give a fuck about your politics. Only your (lack of) intelligence. But by all means, go out to eat.

  • Symphony musician says:

    Norman, one of the ads I got shown on this page was for bitcoin investments, with a long-standing, well-known, demonstrably fake endorsement by a UK celebrity. Please will you look into it.

  • Hilary says:

    Unsurprisingly , masks are an important part of the equation though no mention of the different types available.
    I’d imagine they’re only effective if worn correctly (ie.not re-used, and covering nose as well as mouth ).

    In the earlier stages of the pandemic the WHO were telling the general public that masks weren’t useful whereas they should have been teaching people how to wear them.

    Of the re-usable, washable type i like the Uniqlo ones and they look nice as well.

  • Gustavo says:

    There may be other behavioural rules in Dort-Mund?

  • Maria says:

    So what? Economically, only Germany with all its public funding, could afford to open for a half-full hall of audiernce 2m apart or whatever the dfistance is in Germany. Everyone clutching at straws to bring false hope rather than accept what it is – a pandemic. Stay at home – simple!

    • SVM says:

      Staying at home may be “simple” enough if you live in a palace with extensive grounds and if the directive is for a short period of time. But, for many of us, it has become unbearable.

  • José Bergher says:

    Home accidents can maim, cripple, kill. So can adultery, dog bites, marital disagreements, Chinese food. Therefore, the best solution is to stay home half the time and attend concerts the other half, or viceversa.