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Corona measures for culture Planes can be full, theaters can't?

05.03.2021 by Antonia Morin

While airlines can occupy all seats on their aircraft, the theaters and concert halls have been closed for months. Even in summer 2020, only a small audience was allowed to sit in Bavarian theaters, cinemas and concert halls. Many artists and cultural workers feel that these differences are unfair. But are there perhaps good reasons for the different treatment?

Image source: picture alliance / TT NEWS AGENCY / Adam Ihse

Summer 2020: The holiday season begins, the first planes start fully occupied with more than 200 passengers. In Bavarian concert halls and theaters, however, the following applies: a maximum of 100 people in the audience, keep your distance, mask compulsory. "Of course we artists feel a bit kidding ourselves lately," said the violinist Linus Roth in an interview with BR-KLASSIK. "How can it be that you can fly with a full plane and we play in a hall with 2,000 seats and 50 people are let in? That doesn't explain itself to me."

Bavarian State Ministry for Health and Care gives reasons for decision

Many artists and cultural workers feel like Linus Roth in the Corona summer 2020. At the end of June, 100 people were allowed to sit in the audience again - 200 at open-air events - but that was still not enough for many at the time. The Bavarian State Ministry for Health and Care, on the other hand, considers the audience size to be appropriate and explains: "Spending longer periods in small, poorly or non-ventilated rooms can increase the likelihood of aerosol transmission." That is why the number of participants is set lower in closed rooms. Another aspect is the traceability of contact persons in the case of a participant who is subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19. "The larger the group of participants, the more complex is the identification of close contact persons and the more contact persons could possibly also be affected."

Aircraft filters remove particles

Further easing should depend on the pandemic development, said a ministry spokesman at the time. As long as: 1.5 meters distance, indoors and outdoors. But why are all the seats in the aircraft allowed to be occupied? The airlines justify this primarily with the special ventilation system in aircraft, which constantly supplies new air and thus keeps the virus concentration in the air low. So-called HEPA filters can filter out the smallest particles and viruses from the air, explains Lufthansa press spokesman Helmut Tolksdorf. "The air is sucked out from below and fed to the filter and pumped into the cabin from above, so that a vertical air flow is created and the horizontal air flows are minimized."

Minimized yes, but air currents cannot be prevented, says Dieter Scholz, professor of aircraft construction at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. "These viruses are then not only distributed within a row of seats, but over several rows of seats, perhaps even over the entire aircraft. This has been shown by flow simulations."

Viruses are also spread on the plane

HEPA filters (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter) can filter the smallest particles out of the air. | Image source: picture alliance / Andreas Arnold / dpa In order for us to be infected, we have to inhale a certain number of viruses. If a sick person is in a large theater or concert hall, the viruses are distributed in the air and the virus concentration is low. People who sit further away breathe relatively few viruses. "In contrast to the airplane," says Dieter Scholz. "If I have to share an armrest with someone there and that person coughs, then a virus cloud will go out from that person and I will be hit with a high concentration of viruses."

A free seat between the passengers would provide additional security, Dieter Scholz is certain. However, this is not mandatory in public transport if a mouth and nose cover is worn. "There is certainly an injustice between the different commercial institutions."

In view of the regulations in the aircraft, Linus Roth wants to continue campaigning for cultural organizers. Because the later the easing, the more insolvent artists and musicians, he fears. "We have to bring the art out again, but we also have to fight to ensure that we are allowed to. Imagine a life without opera, without concerts, even without rock concerts. If all of that no longer exists, then an incredible amount will be destroyed . And we cannot allow that to happen. "

This article was first published on June 23, 2020 and updated on March 5, 2021.