Illegal gatherings and parties during a pandemic – is it a serious public health risk?

The worldwide scarcity in nightlife offer caused an important spike in illegal parties for New Year’s Eve, with little to no health or safety measures. The illegal parties that most stood out during what should be the industry’s most important night of the year took place in France, Spain, UK, and the USA. While most of the world’s population is under strict social restrictions, in France, over 2,500 people gathered to party and in Spain, 300 people were allowed by the Catalonian government to party for over 36 hours. Not to mention, in the UK, England’s area with the most coronavirus cases in Essex also had an illegal gathering in a 4 million pound mansion.

Due to this, the INA asks for governing authorities and its laws, pursue and penalize illegal party organizers and attendees with the maximum penalty.

France jails suspected organizer of the NYE rave

French authorities have jailed and charged one of the suspected organizers of an illegal New Year’s Eve rave that gathered 2,400 people going against the strict bans currently imposed on citizens. The rave took place in the Brittany region located in northwestern France, gathering some 800 vehicles with attendees from as far as Spain, Italy, and Poland for a 5 euro entry fee. The suspected organizer is being held in custody while other suspected organizers remain at large, he has denied his involvement in the organization and states he has “only lent a hand”.

Catalonian Government allows for a 36 hour rave near Barcelona

The INA’s affiliated member in Spain, Spain Nightlife and its affiliated association in Catalonia FECASARM, have taken part in the legal proceeding opened as a result of the celebration of a “rave” with over 300 people and no safety or sanitary measures that took place over 36 hours near Barcelona, Spain. In the Catalonian region of Spain, nightlife is completely shut down and New Year’s gatherings were limited to 10 people. To neighbors and the population’s dismay, law enforcement evicted the rave 36 hours after the rave started to avoid “possible confrontation” between law enforcement and attendees. Also, to everyone’s surprise, no COVID-19 testing was performed on attendees but yet drug and alcohol testing were.

And while Spain Nightlife is waiting to be accepted as a part of the case, we know that two of the suspects that are under investigation have been released on probation. Some of the rave attendees are foreigners, with several French, Belgian, Dutch and Italians.

In Spain Nightlife’s appeal, they have argued that the professional nightlife industry is fully entitled to be a part in the proceedings and request the maximum penalty provided in the Spanish Penal Code for the alleged event organizers, as long as their participation in the events as well as their guilt is proven. It is obvious that they have caused very serious damage to the image of the nightlife industry and have posed a serious public health risk. However, nightlife employers are not very optimistic regarding the effective fulfillment of the jail sentence that may be imposed on the suspected event organizers if they are convicted, as well as the fulfillment of payment of any fine.

Without prejudice to the seriousness of holding illegal events, Spain Nightlife is very afraid that the alleged perpetrators will only face one year in prison on disobedience charges, regardless of the corresponding fine of up to 600,000 euros for the administrative offense of organizing an illegal activity, being that, most likely no jail sentence will be served and no fine will be imposed. All this those makes legal nightlife businesses pay the consequences and delay their reopening as the spread of the virus continues.

The only solution to this problem of impunity, although right now it is too late for the case at hand, would be for the Spanish Penal Code to consider behavior related to the spread of diseases and pandemics as a felony against public health. In fact, in other countries like Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Peru these crimes are punished.

As explained by Joaquim Boadas, Secretary-General of the INA and Spain Nightlife, “Representing nightlife employers, we consider it a lack of respect that, while all the nightlife venues in Spain remain closed, others are organizing illegal parties throughout the country and that these behaviors are not harshly prosecuted and punished as should. If event organizers and attendees were properly punished they would think twice about organizing and attending illegal parties and raves, but some governments seem to indirectly promote these illegal parties by not punishing its users.”

NYC’s ongoing underground COVID-19 party scene

A recent article in the NY Post has detected that the underground party scene in New York City is ongoing despite non-essential businesses being shut down and social gatherings being limited. During New Year’s Eve, the New York Sheriff’s Office dispersed 3 very crowded illegal events in the city.

Ariel Palitz, Senior Executive director of the city’s Office of Nightlife, took the time to condemn any illicit underground gathering. “We’re speaking with many within the industry who strongly oppose underground parties at this moment because these events put lives at risk and delay the return of a thriving nightlife scene” she told The Post in a statement.

The INA demands more pilot testing in regulated nightlife venues to be conducted

The results of the PRIMA-CoV trial conducted in our Gold Member Venue Sala Apolo, in Barcelona (Spain) and it’s non-infection of participants prove the need of conducting pilot testing is essential to face the sanitary crisis head-on. By detecting the problems the virus brings and bringing possible solutions forward would be a better solution than just shutting down venues as a whole and allow for illegal gatherings to take place. The nightlife industry can be a solution to the current pandemic since it could be a primary detection source together with the governing authorities and act as a firewall to contain the spread of the virus. Having COVID testing to access nightlife venues can also get a big portion of the population to get tested when they wouldn’t otherwise, the detection of positive COVID results can then be notified to governing officials and issued the proper quarantine (depending on each countries laws).