More than 1,000 coronavirus infections have been linked to a music festival in the Netherlands earlier this month in a blow that comes weeks after the country had lifted most lockdown measures because new infections were dropping.
Organizers of the two-day Verknipt festival have insisted that the 20,000 people who attended the event in Utrecht earlier this month were required to show proof using a QR code that they were vaccinated, had recently recovered from a coronavirus infection, or had a negative COVID-19 test.
Dutch News first reported that in spite of the “test for entry” efforts, roughly 1,050 people attendees have since tested positive for COVID. The staggering total is expected to continue to climb in the coming days.
“We cannot say that all these people were infected at the festival itself,” Utrecht’s regional health board spokesman Lennart van Trigt said, according to CNBC. “It could also be possible that they’ve been infected while traveling to the festival or in the evening before going to the festival or having an after-party.”
Attendees were permitted to test for COVID-19 up to 40 hours before the event, leaving a potential opening for festival-goers to contract the virus while visiting friends and going to bars and clubs before the event had started, van Trigt said.
“We’ve found out now that this period is too long,” he added.
Recently vaccinated people, who may still have been susceptible to the virus, were also allowed into the festival—even though it takes weeks after a jab to reach full immunity.
“We were a bit too trigger happy,” van Trigt said.
The superspreader disaster comes as the Netherlands has reintroduced restrictions on bars, restaurants, and nightclubs to stop a spate of infections among young adults, weeks after most lockdown measures had been lifted and the country appeared to have its caseload of new infections under control.
Utrecht Mayor Sharon Dijksma attended the event and noted on Twitter that the festival scene, where so many people went without masks and social distancing was all but ignored, was “special and a little tense,” according to Dutch News.
Coronavirus cases had climbed after the loosening of restrictions on bars and clubs at the end of June. Most infections have occurred in nightlife settings and parties with high numbers of people, according to a government health measures memo.
The country’s parliament was recalled from summer recess for further discussion over the staggering leap in infections which on Wednesday surpassed 10,000 in 24 hours for the first time in six months, Reuters noted.
Roughly 52,000 cases were reported in the Netherlands last week—a steep jump from the 8,500 positive tests recorded in the week prior.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized earlier this week, acknowledging the country had moved too quickly to lift some of its measures.
Nightclubs and discos will close again until mid-August, the Dutch government said.
“What we thought was possible in practice turned out to be wrong after all,” Rutte said on Monday, according to Politico. “We made an error of judgment there, we regret that and apologize for that.”