Last month the Dutch government tentatively approved entertainment industry trials of “Covid-proof” live events. Now the first of these events has been given the go-ahead, with a theatre show due to take place in the second half of January. And these trials could influence what audience scenario Eurovision 2021 can use.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, confirmed that trials in the culture sector will start in January.
The trial events will aim to see if it’s possible to host events with larger audiences and minimise coronavirus transmission.
The first trial will be a live concert of the Dutch Cabaret performer Guido Weijers. He is due to perform at Beatrix Theater in Utrecht. While the theatre has a capacity of 1500 seats, only 500 will be admitted to the show. They’ll be divided into two groups of 250 to trial different audience conditions.
There will also be trials involving two football games and a business conference, all testing different aspects of holding live events in the age of corona.
The Covid-19 situation in The Netherlands
The Netherlands is still in partial lockdown and will remain so until March. Dutch people are being asked to work from home, where possible, to avoid busy places and to stay 1.5 metres away from others. As well, large events such as concerts and theatre are not allowed.
The number of new infections in the Netherlands increased considerably last week compared to the week before. Because the number of infections is still so high, there will be no relaxing of the measures during the upcoming holidays.
The Prime Minister confirmed that if the infection rate continues to increase, the lockdown rules will become even more stringent. He also appealed to people to adhere to the rules.
Because of the current situation, Dutch press has reacted with scepticism at the news of the live event trials scheduled for January. Restaurants and bars are still closed and there is confusion why no trials are being made for the hospitality industry.
What does this mean for Eurovision 2021?
The news of the trials is a ray of hope for the Eurovision community. While Eurovision 2021 isn’t specifically mentioned in relation to the trials, the project does seem to reflect the proposed Eurovision set-up of Scenarios B and C.
In those situations, the Rotterdam Ahoy would have a live audience, but the audience would be required to observe social distancing. It would also mean that delegations would be smaller than usual. Scenario C also provides for some delegations to stay home and participate via a pre-recorded performance, similar to the set-up of Junior Eurovision 2020.
Scenario A involves a full audience — unlikely to be possible in 2021 — while Scenario D has no live audience.
Eurovision 2021 Executive Producer Sietse Bakker responded to the news of the trials, with a message of cautious optimism.
Dat er in januari @FieldlabEvents pilot-evenementen mogen plaatsvinden om te kijken hoe we weer veilig evenementen kunnen organiseren is zeer welkom. Daarmee zijn we er nog niet, maar met Team @Songfestival steunen we het initiatief en kijken we aandachtig mee. #OpenUpStepByStep
— Sietse Bakker (@SietseBakker) December 8, 2020
He said the trials are “very welcome” and wrote, “We are not there yet, but with Team Songfestival, we support the initiative and we are attentive.”
Eurovision 2021 organisers have said that a decision on which scenario will be used will be made in “the early months of 2021”.
What do you think? Would Eurovision 2021 be the same without a large live audience? What kind of scenario would you like? Tell us your thoughts below!