GGD Utrecht has discovered that no less than 130 visitors to the festival have already been infected before

GGD Utrecht has discovered that no less than 130 visitors to the festival have already been infected before
At the beginning of July, visitors flock to Utrecht around the grand stage at the Verknipt Art Festival. Of the more than 20,000 visitors to the two-day festival, 1,100 have subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus.Rod Fost’s photo

Of the more than 20,000 visitors to the two-day techno festival in Utrecht, 1,100 have since tested positive. Based on the Utrecht data, infectious disease control doctor Putri Hentran from the GGD district of Utrecht concluded that this exceptionally large outbreak of the virus was not caused by a single ‘super spreader’. According to her, about 34 per cent, or a third of the infected visitors examined by the GGD Utrecht Centre, were most likely already infected when they arrived at the festival site.

The case shows how poorly it can be to work with access tests, even with strict supervision. GGD has found no indications of widespread fraud related to test tickets. Most likely, due to the long shelf life of the negative rapid test, 40 hours at the time, many festival-goers were unaware that they were carrying the virus.

This month, the GGD in the Utrecht region examined the corridors of nearly four hundred infected visitors in Ferknypt from the province of Utrecht. Other infected festival-goers live in other GGD areas and have not been surveyed. “Unfortunately, our research is not complete,” says Hintaran.

Valid for a very long time

Many of the injured festival-goers attended several other social celebrations earlier that week and may have been infected there. A number of visited dining establishments and events were already in the picture at GGD, due to other infected people who also visited.

Data shows that many infected festival-goers ‘lost’ when coronavirus nightlife measures were largely withdrawn on June 26. This case shows how quickly the virus can spread if many young people visit several parties in a short time. About 90 percent of infected festival-goers surveyed also visited other festivities in the days before Verknipt.

According to experts, the mandatory entrance test card was valid for 40 hours too long. With infection rates rising rapidly, the mitigation has largely been reversed. It was announced this week that multi-day festivals are not possible until September.

“Surprisingly, 34 percent of the infected festival-goers we examined were already infected,” says a spokesperson for the GGD district in Utrecht. She thinks you can’t blame the little ones. “They heard from the government that they were allowed to celebrate.”

Dancing with Jansen

The analysis also shows that half of the affected festival-goers from the Utrecht region had been vaccinated at least once. It is not known how many went “dance with Janssen”, and even visited the festival immediately after receiving this vaccine. Then they did not have to present a negative test in the first two weeks after the vaccination.

The GGD district of Utrecht was able to carry out this investigation thanks to data from large-scale sources and communication research (BCO). Hentran: ‘This way we had a picture of the infected people and their contacts and were able to monitor and contain the outbreak. BCO is necessary to control infectious diseases.

However, Utrecht is the only region where the full source and contact research is still being conducted, as can be seen on the government’s coronavirus dashboard. With rapidly increasing infection numbers, many GGDs have been forced to switch to “striped-down” BCOs. Next, the source and researchers contact only those who have tested positive and have little time for further investigation. Then pollution groups cannot be set.

Since January, the GGD in the Utrecht region has been using a self-developed digital questionnaire, the CoronaCare, to perform source and connection research more efficiently. If a source and contact researcher from Utrecht (BCO) contacts a person who has tested positive for the virus to inform them of the infection, the affected person will be asked to complete the online questionnaire within three hours: Where have you been, and who have you been in contact with? Then BCO’er calls again. All close contacts will then be notified that they have been in contact with an infected person. BCOs can then plot patterns, for example if several affected people belong to the same party.

digital survey

GGD physician Daan Vermeulen, a healthcare IT consultant in a previous life, developed the digital questionnaire with a healthcare software specialist. He found source and connection investigation cumbersome, and also with the HP Zone system, ill-equipped to respond to a pandemic. With the completed questionnaire, the BCO employee already has a lot of information before the interview. Vermeulen: “Students sometimes had as many as sixty contacts in the days surrounding the infection.”

The GGD in the Utrecht region now presents 70 percent of people with the digital questionnaire, especially those aged 16-30. BCO employees have a regular conversation with “elderly” and digitally unqualified people who have tested positive. This also applies if, during the first meeting, a BCO employee feels that someone is not motivated to completely complete the survey. “This sometimes happens, for example, among residents of large student houses.”

“While a BCO person used to do one or two cases per day, this method has an average of four cases with ten or twenty all-digital numbers,” says director Judith Luding of the GGD district in Utrecht. And most importantly: this way we can make better communications based on contacts and we can keep a better overview of the virus.

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