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Berlin Clubs Return With a Vengeance

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Berlin’s local government had gladly supplied the roughly 40,000 euros to cover the costs of all the P.C.R. tests for this experiment, said Klaus Lederer, a politician with the left-wing Die Linke party and Berlin’s current state minister for culture, because “club culture is a part of Berlin culture.”

Speaking with reporters crammed into a doorway outside the Metropol nightclub to shelter from a downpour on the pilot project’s first night, Mr. Lederer also noted that keeping shuttered clubs afloat was costing taxpayers a hefty sum.

Dr. Frank Heppner, a professor and researcher at Charité who was with Mr. Lederer, said that P.C.R. tests were necessary for the study because rapid antigen tests are “leaky and not ideal.”

“You have to use the best, most sensitive tool to filter out potential positives,” he said.

The pilot project mirrored other recent experiments in Germany, including testing protocols at Berlin classical concert venues this past spring and an electronic music festival outside the city over the summer.

“We know after a very long period of time of lockdown that we have severe collateral effects on the society that you have to also bring in. You cannot just focus on the virus and the direct consequences,” Dr. Heppner said. “The indirect consequences on a social, on a psychological and an economic level are also things you have to weigh.”

For the time being, the club study has been swept aside by the club reopenings. But Lutz Leichsenring, the spokesman for the Club Commission, said the P.C.R. testing strategy remains a potential option in place of new shutdowns or tighter restrictions if infections spike this fall. Berlin’s clubs had lined up lab partners, in August, to offer club special 15 euro P.C.R. tests — a substantial sum in a city where door fees rarely top 20 euros, but with results guaranteed within four hours.

Another lockdown would be a “worst-case scenario that would kill a lot of jobs,” Mr. Leichsenring said. But the study of quick-turnaround P.C.R. tests could lead to alternatives “so we can at least make sure that people who go to clubs are safe,” he said.

Alex Marshall contributed reporting.

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