Initial results from UK government’s Events Research Programme increases optimism for full capacity shows next month


May 20, 2021

Findings from the UK government’s Events Research Programme have increased optimism that full capacity concerts and shows will be able to return next month, as currently planned. Those findings suggest that attending a live entertainment event without face masks and social distancing is as COVID-safe as going to a restaurant or shopping centre, although there are various measures that can be employed to further reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted.

The government has partnered on a number of sporting, music and other events in recent weeks in order to test how to safely stage larger capacity shows without risking another surge in COVID cases. That has included a club night and mini-festival in Liverpool, and last week’s BRIT Awards in London.

According to The Times, researchers have mainly concluded that such events can be held safely as COVID restrictions lift, especially if certain extra safety measures are employed.

Those extra safety measures include checking audience members have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID, as well as increasing ventilation in venues and better managing the flow of people to reduce mixing.

The newspaper reports: “Preliminary data from the Events Research Programme is understood to have found that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors the risk of virus transmission can be significantly reduced, reducing fears that sports matches and concerts could cause big outbreaks”.

Those findings increase the chances of the current plan for lifting COVID restrictions in England being achieved – so that full capacity shows are possible again from 21 Jun – despite the new Indian variant of the virus causing new concern in recent days.

That said, The Times adds, with researchers identifying practices that can make events even safer, their report will “likely strengthen the case for requiring ‘COVID-status certification’ for events to prove that those attending are at lower risk of being infectious”.

The results from the research programme should be shared with ministers in the coming days. One government source told The Times: “We are still waiting for the final bits of data but the results so far have been very encouraging. It will help make the case that these large events are not inherently more risky than other parts of the hospitality sector. It shows that there are things that you can do to make these settings as safe as other daily activities. It is true that they are not going to be 100% safe but you can lower the risk to a reasonable level”.

Many in the live sector have argued at various points over the last year – especially when venues have been subject to significantly more restrictions than workplaces, schools, colleges and the high street – that there is no evidence that there is a higher risk of COVID transmission at entertainment events, and – in fact – if anything the risks are lower.

Having official research to back that up is good news for a live industry eager to get properly back to business next month. Although it will be interesting to see what additional measures event organisers will have to implement based on this research and the impact of those requirements. And also how long such extra measures will be required as the vaccine roll out continues.

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