Final ERP report suggests ventilation is key to covid transmission reduction but festivals posed highest risk


November 29, 2021

The Government has published its final report from the Events Research Programme (ERP) in which it suggests outdoor unstructured ERP events, specifically festivals, posed the highest increased transmission risk from events examined as part of the programme.

It states that a number of factors were likely to have contributed to the higher transmission risk at festivals, including high rates of unvaccinated attendees, the structure of the events, behaviour of attendees leading up to and after events, and “the community prevalence at the time of the events”.

Among the festivals to be involved in the ERP were Live Nation’s 10,000-capacity Download and Sefton Park (cap. 5,000) pilots, and its full capacity Latitude Festival (40,000). The only other full-capacity music festival included in the ERP was Superstruct Entertainment’s Tramlines (40,000).

The report states that attendance at the mainly outdoor unseated events studied (Goodwood, Latitude and Tramlines), as part of the third ERP phase, were associated with a 1.7 fold increased risk of Covid-19 transmission among attendees.

It also found that across all events, where attendee Covid-19 vaccination status was self-reported, 87% of people who tested positive during the study period were unvaccinated.

The closing EPR report suggests venue operators and event organisers should consider their ventilation strategy, space utilisation, and movement of people as part of risk assessments tailored to each venue.

The latest guidance for venues and event organisers states, “High resolution fixed monitoring of air quality and people movement can be used to determine ventilation effectiveness and identify areas of higher risk to prioritise their improvement. For complex or large venues or high-occupancy events, specific mitigations are best developed in consultation with ventilation and crowd movement experts.”

The report found that good quality ventilation, for given occupancy levels, was observed in nearly all of the spaces monitored within the ERP but unstructured settings, where attendees were standing and could move around a space, were more likely to be associated with pockets of high crowding.

The research also found that visitors to events were more likely to wear face coverings when advised to do so – but noted that government rules on masks varied over the course of the study.

Minister for sport, tourism, heritage and civil society Nigel Huddleston said, “The programme has provided an important template for event organisers the world over to continue to be able to plan their events safely and that’s great credit to the scientists behind this world-leading study.”

Professor Dame Theresa Marteau, chair of the Events Research Programme Science Board, said,  “We have gathered large amounts of data that can be used by the scientific community worldwide, event organisers and government for the best understanding to date of the risk of transmitting coronavirus at live events and how we can best keep this risk low.”

More than 2 million people were observed at 31 events as part of the ERP. The full report can be found here.

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