Rage festival catches Covid-19 positive party-goers

Rage organisers identified party-goers who tested positive for Covid-19, promptly isolating them and tracing their contacts.

In an interview with Bongani Bingwa on 702, Rage Festival head Greg Walsh clarified that these positive cases were identified before the events.

“We had our first night last night. Everybody who entered the venue had to have tested negative before they walked through the entrance,” Walsh said.

“We did identify some positive cases, who were immediately isolated.”

Walsh said that the festival organisers were working with a team from the Department of Health on contact tracing for positive cases.

According to Walsh, Rage is the first event to publicly require attendees to be fully vaccinated, having launched its “Jab to Jol” campaign earlier this year.

Rage launched the campaign to encourage youth to get vaccinated.

“We don’t believe you can scare youth into vaccinating. They’re aware that they mostly present relatively asymptomatic,” Walsh said.

“We believe young people need incentives. They need festivals, they need sport, they need live entertainment, nightclubs, all the things that young people want.”

“And I think if those are deemed environments strictly for vaccinated people, that’s going to get them [youth] to want to vaccinate,” he added.

Walsh and his team are aware of the potential for Covid-19 to spread during events such as Rage, hence their decision to enforce mandatory vaccination for attendees.

In addition to requiring vaccinations, festival-goers must also provide a negative Covid-19 test. Rage is refunding people who bought tickets and tested positive for the coronavirus before the event.

Rage is also running its own Covid-19 testing facility for all five days of the festival.

Walsh explained that initially, the plan was to receive attendees’ vaccination certificates and negative Covid-19 tests on the first day, then test them again on the fourth day.

“When hysteria began to build about the omicron variant, it got us really quite terrified,” Walsh said.

As a result, he said they decided to increase the line of defence and require daily Covid-19 testing.

“At a cost to us of around R200 every time we test somebody—for all staff and all guests—is a huge commitment and investment on an already very unprofitable event given the restrictions on gathering sizes at the moment.”

Walsh said that they have always felt a high duty of care.

“The media hysteria around Rage has painted us as individuals in a very poor light. We’ve always had the best interest of our customers at heart. We’ve always felt a duty of care to allow matrics to let their hair loose, but do it in an environment where there’s a big safety net.”

Rage’s decision to go ahead was criticised after South African scientists revealed a concerning new coronavirus variant to the world — later dubbed Omicron.

Critics of the Rage Festival also point to South Africa’s second wave of Covid-19 in December last year, when party-goers were blamed for spreading the beta variant all over South Africa.

Although there is little certainty about how deadly or infectious the omicron variant is, experts indicated that it was likely responsible for a surge in cases in Gauteng, and present in most provinces.

What is known is that existing PCR tests can detect the new variant.

It is suspected that Omicron is more infectious but presents with milder symptoms than the beta and delta variants.

Mutations in Omicron encountered in other variants indicate that it could be better at evading antibodies. Those who have had Covid-19 before may therefore be at greater risk of re-infection.

It is strongly suspected that existing vaccines still provide effective protection against severe disease and death from Omicron Covid-19 infections.

“The vaccines should hold well… because they depend more on T-cell immunity and less on antibodies,” one of South Africa’s pre-eminent global infectious diseases experts, Salim Abdool Karim, has explained.

“Even if there is some escape from antibodies, it’s very hard to escape T-cell immunity.”

Now read: 95% of Discovery employees vaccinated as mandatory policy nears

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Rage festival catches Covid-19 positive party-goers