Eurovision song contest prepares for slimmed down COVID version

General view of the concert hall Ahoy in Rotterdam
FILE PHOTO: General view of the concert hall Ahoy, that should have hosted the Eurovision song contest in May, and now is used as an emergency hospital, as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Rotterdam, Netherlands March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

May 18, 2021

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The Dutch port city of Rotterdam is preparing for a slimmed down version of the Eurovision song contest this weekend with a limited live audience, amid falling but still significant COVID-19 infection rates in the Netherlands.

“When we made the decision to try and unite everyone here in Rotterdam we knew the pandemic unfortunately would still be around. We’re doing everything we can to minimise the impact of it,” Martin Osterdahl, the contest’s executive supervisor, told Reuters on Monday.

All 39 participating countries and their delegations are tested before they can enter the venue. Some 3,000 fans can attend through the Dutch trial scheme for events during the pandemic. They will also have to show a negative coronavirus test.

This past weekend the organisers announced there had been infections found in members of the delegations from Poland and Iceland. Both delegations are in quarantine and waiting for more tests.

“If an artist tests positive we will go to the back-up tape,” Osterdahl said, stressing that no one gets in the Eurovision venue without a negative test.

The Netherlands is hosting the 65th edition of the event, which draws a television audience of about 200 million, this weekend after Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence won the 2019 contest with the song “Arcade”. The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Coronavirus infections in the Netherlands have dropped by more than a quarter this month, after climbing to their highest levels of the year in April. The Dutch health minister on Monday announced the country will go ahead with easing COVID-19 curbs, which will result in amusement parks, zoos, gyms and outdoor swimming pools reopening on Wednesday. [nL2N2N40MC]

(Reporting by Bart Biesemans; Writing by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Dan Grebler)