On 9th December 2021, French clubs welcomed their dancers for the last night before a temporary closure, “until early January”, announced Prime Minister Jean Castex. As the government has recently extended the closure by three weeks from 3rd January 2022, frustration is rising among the nightlife industry. However, the French newspaper Le Monde just unveiled a new scientific report that could challenge the risk of infection in clubs.
The government decision of closing clubs following the rise of Omicron cases in France was based on a scientific study (ComCor) conducted during the summer of 2021 by Institut Pasteur, Santé Publique, Caisse Nationale de l’Assurance-Maladie, Santé Publique France, and Ipsos institute. This study concluded that the reopening of clubs on 9th July 2021 had increased the risk of infection by a factor of 7.9 for those under 40-year-old and by a factor of 2.7 for those over 40. The fairness of this study is being discussed by its authors, as it was carried out between May and August 2021, at a time when the Delta variant appeared, and health and social measures were being put in place. The majority of establishments were also still closed, and the vaccination rate (particularly among young people) was very low. Moreover, the study is based on surveys carried out by people who were already infected.
Le Monde recently revealed a new scientific study showing different results: The ITOC (Indoor Clubbing Transmission of Covid-19) study. This one was conducted on 17th October 2021 at La Machine du Moulin Rouge, Paris, in the same way as test events. People knew they were attending a club night with a scientific purpose. Two groups of people, all vaccinated, were tested one week apart, one group having attended the club night in between, the other not.
The initial findings revealed by the newspaper show that there was neither a cluster, nor any evidence of over-contamination of participants during this test event. “The first results on Covid transmission collected at the time of the study were rather reassuring,” said Jérémy Zeggagh to Le Monde, a doctor in the infectious diseases department at Saint-Louis Hospital. He added that “we cannot conclude that the results would be the same with a higher incidence rate,” as this is the case at the end of the year.
A rising frustration among the nightlife industry:
As concerts were still happening, and bars and restaurants remained open with a ‘no dancing’ policy, clubs were the only public place that had to close due to the rise of Coronavirus cases in France at the end of 2021. The Prime Minister justified this decision saying that “the virus circulates a lot among young people, even those who have been vaccinated, because it is extremely difficult to wear a mask in these institutions.” A decision that has been much criticised by people of the nightlife industry feeling they were victims of ingrained attitudes and prejudices.
In a press release, the National Union of Clubs and Entertainment Venues says they’ve been rejecting their request to cancel the closure of clubs. “We had in mind the defence of the fundamental freedom of trade, non-discrimination and equal treatment,” they add. “The French Conseil d’Etat did not answer precisely to the debates on these points and privileged the sanitary approach be refusing – and this is serious to our eyes – to speak on the coherence (non-existent!) Of the whole system as the opening of the concert halls.”
Club Culture, a collective that brings together 38 clubs across France wanting to legitimise their cultural status and value, are denouncing “the incoherence of the closure of cultural clubs and discotheques: the only artistic venues sacrificed to satisfy public opinion in the face of the fifth wave of the COVID-19.” They also highlight that since the Prime Minister’s announcements, Club Culture have had to cancel their commitments to more than a thousand national and international artists for the month of December, already causing a €12-15 million loss in turnover. “It is now generally accepted that the closure of discotheques and clubs did not prevent the spread and impact of COVID 19 in France and Europe,” they said on a social media post. “We do not understand the isolated health responsibility that is imposed on us, when we know for sure that the party will be sent back to the private space.”
Since the reopening on 9th July 2021, French clubs have been able to open to full capacity in less than a month. As they were being shut down for a few weeks at first, in March 2020, they ended up being closed for 16 months. A year into the pandemic, more than 400 clubs had closed.
Sources: Le Monde,