Despite the Government having announced that from 16 August people in England who test positive for Covid-19 will not have to isolate if they have had both vaccinations, key figures in the festival sector have raised concerns that the rules need to be changed further to prevent staffing problem at events this summer.
The current rules mean that people in England are required to self-isolate for 10 days if notified to do so by NHS Test and Trace (T&T).
Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed told Access that despite the change on 16 August, the situation will remain difficult for festival organisers as many members of staff have not yet been able to receive a second vaccination.
Reed said the situation could have a significant impact on the operation of festivals this year and that he is already aware of festival suppliers and crew who have had to cancel as a result of being required to self-isolate.
“The only reason this is not already a huge problem for staff is that festivals are not operational yet,” he said. “The problem is that irrespective of T&T check in requirement at events, staff can still be pinged – and for the younger non-double vaccinated cohorts working at festivals there is no option other than to go home and self-isolate even after 16 August.”
He said there are multiple additional points of delivery risk with festivals in comparison to sports stadiums or permanent venues, and there will be very limited ability to replace staff in areas such as security and bar staff given current concerns around workforce and the fact that hospitality and nightclubs are also about to go back to full capacity.
“Coupled with these concerns around the temporary workforce and the expected ongoing rise in cases and therefore T&T isolation notices, I can see this potentially having a significant impact on the operation of festivals this year. We are also hearing accounts of contractors and site management staff cancelling due to having to self-isolate, creating an impact before festivals even get to site”.
Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn, who is preparing to run the 40,000-capacity Latitude Festival from 22-25 July as part of the Government’s Events Research Programme, told The Observer the situation could lead to people simply deleting the NHS Covid-19 tracing app to avoid getting notified.
“What it is likely to result in is people turning the NHS app off. And I think unless the Government address that pretty quickly, that will be the result of it. I think the Government are aware of that,” he said.
Greg Parmley, CEO of Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment (LIVE), a federation of 13 live music industry associations, said its members were already seeing productions collapsing due to the need to isolate whole casts or crew when one person in a bubble contracts Covid.
“To ensure the industry can reopen sustainably there is also a need for a cultural exemption to the isolation requirements through frequent testing,” he said. “The Government has announced its plan to exempt those that are fully vaccinated from mandatory isolation from 16 August. That is far too late for productions that are trying to get up now and may well be playing to full houses by 19 July.
“Companies will work to provide a Covid secure environment for performers and crew, however the inevitable increase in rates would lead to many having to self-isolate despite having been vaccinated and testing negative. Without this exception shows will have to be cancelled unnecessarily at the last-minute, costing millions of pounds and potentially thousands of jobs.”