Thousands at a major festival in Chengdu: ‘Glad we can again’

The masks are removed and there is a party as if the corona virus never existed. Months later than planned, thousands of festival-goers enthusiastically jump to the beats of the CEA festival in Chengdu, central China.

“The last time this was possible was December last year, says music entrepreneur Paul Neuteboom of Brotherhood Music, one of the organizers of the festival.” He can’t take his luck.

“The artists have barely had any income for months, there has been so much uncertainty. Seeing them doing their sound checks here now gives me goosebumps. This is so cool,” he says, while the hardstyle sounds thunder across the then empty festival site in the city. who has not seen any new infections for months. According to official statistics, Chengdu had only 304 corona cases from the start.

Long nights

The festival was actually planned for April, with the Dutch top DJ Martin Garrix as the main crowd puller. But that did not happen. “I received a phone call in mid-January,” says Neuteboom. “Take a look at the news, there may be some issues. Soon after, it became clear that events in China first, and later in other parts of the world would have to be canceled. “A difficult period followed, with mass layoffs at home and abroad, most recently at festival organization ID&T.

“Very painful”, Neuteboom sighs. “We have largely managed to keep our team together. I am so glad that we have now managed to do this here again.” It was not easy, at a time when the Chinese authorities wanted to show on the one hand that the fight against the virus could indeed be won, but on the other hand they were afraid of taking unnecessary risks.

“The nights were long,” says Neuteboom. “The number of restrictions is enormous. At the same time: actually we already have a festival every morning in the metro. Many people come together all over the country.”

Festival visitors must register with their health app. Only those who have a green code, and therefore do not pose a risk, may enter. Furthermore, temperature checks are done at the entrance and visitors are encouraged to wear mouth masks, although in many cases they quickly disappear back into their pocket.

No more social distancing

After a strict lockdown, public life in China slowly got back on track in the course of the spring. Smaller outbreaks subsequently occurred in Beijing, the port city of Dalian and Xinjiang, in western China. Residents of cities such as Urumqi and Kashgar were locked up in their apartment complexes for weeks. Doctors were not allowed to go home to see their children for more than two months. Necessary, according to the authorities, to keep the contamination risks as low as possible.

After massive test campaigns in various cities, there are virtually no new cases of infection in China, except among returnees from abroad. That was reason enough to reopen clubs and discotheques in large parts of the country without restrictions.

Now also the larger-scale festivals are given space again, in which social distancing no longer plays a role in practice. “There will always be risks, but I am not that worried anymore,” says one festival visitor. “I’m glad we can go again.”

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