- 03 Jul 21
Hopes for the return of live music will rise, following the success to date of the antigen testing process, carried out today in the hours before the Government’s pilot festival gig in the RHK, Kilmainham
What is antigen testing really like? How does it work? And might it provide the answer to our current festival woes, by enabling the big gigs to go ahead later this summer, or early in the autumn?
Those were the questions on many people’s minds as they waited in high anticipation for todays’s special Pilot Festival event, hosted by IMMA, with MCD handling the production, at Royal Hospital Kilmainham.
The gig – which will see Gavin James bring the music to a close later this evening – is designed as a test event for safely and successfully returning to large-capacity music events. And antigen testing is at the heart of that challenge.
So what is antigen testing?
Antigen testing is a rapid form of Covid testing. Results can be back within 30 minutes, rather than the 24hrs it takes for a PCR test.
Antigen testing detects the presence of Covid when people are at their most infectious. While it's not completely effective, it's been trialed with great success at pilot events across Europe and the UK.
The testing centre for today's festival was set up in the grounds of Collins Barracks. Everyone with tickets for the gig had to register for their testing appointment in advance. Up to 1,000 people, from the 3,500 attendees, were able to register to get tested on Friday, from 12pm to 10pm, while testing today started from 8am.
So how was it going to look and feel? I was there to find out.
Things move fast over at the testing tent.
Inside there's a long table where 30 testers are flying through the process of swabbing people. There's no waiting around afterwards required: your results are sent to you via email within 15 minutes.
The testing today is being carried out by Code Blue Medical. Eloise, who's at the tent entrance ushering people in, tells me they've been quickly getting through the 2,500 tests scheduled for today.
"It takes barely five minutes a test, so even at our busiest we're testing 30 people every five minutes," she explains.
It's an effective system. Everyone has an allocated slot, so there are no significant queues, and you're free to go off about your business while you await your result.
Assuming you get a negative result, this has to be presented at the gates of RHK Kilmainham, along with your ticket.
Anyone who's antigen test comes back as positive for Covid 19 is offered a PCR test, and advised to self-isolate at home.
It will be a while before we can see how successful the antigen testing for this pilot festival really was. But the smooth running of the process today certainly offers more than just a glimmer of hope for the return of live music – and maybe, just maybe, even a normal Electric Picnic.