The events industry has welcomed the publication of the Events Research Programme (ERP) data from the first phase of the pilot show scheme, which found that of the 58,000 who attended the first nine test events only 28 subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.
The report said there were “no substantial outbreaks identified by public health teams and their surveillance systems around any of the events”.
Of these 28 cases, the report said 11 cases were identified as potentially infectious at an event, and a further 17 were identified as potentially infected at or around the time of an event. The ERP’s outdoor festival pilot at Sefton Park (pictured), which was attended by more than 6,000 people, saw two cases.
The report was published within hours of the live music and theatre sector threatening Government with legal action if it failed to make the findings public.
While the events industry has welcomed the report’s publication and its findings that show the events did not result in any Covid outbreaks, it is calling for clear guidance as to how Government will enable events to be run after Step 4 of the prime minister’s conditional reopening roadmap on 19 July.
Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed said festival organisers now need clear guidance from Government on exactly what the expectations are for festivals around testing regimes and other protocols this summer: “We are actively engaging with Government on this. For festivals who are still planning, it is clearly not a conversation that can wait until 19 July.
“We welcome further festival pilot events as an opportunity for the ERP to scale up and develop the knowledge base around reopening safely but we also simply cannot get stuck in endless rounds of pilots. The objective must be to reopen festivals safely with the right mitigations in place at Step 4.”
Greg Parmley, CEO of live music industry umbrella body LIVE, said, “It is completely unfair that our industry finds itself stuck in seemingly interminable rounds of research before we can open when no such research is being done for other places, such as restaurants, shops or public transport. With sensible mitigations, including simple Covid-certification, there is no reason why we should not be able to reopen on 19 July.”
Among the ERP report’s conclusions are that both indoor and outdoor events carry levels of transmission risk but ‘pinch points’ in venues where attendees may congregate for extended periods carry greater transmission risk.
It said large indoor events with high crowd density and proximity may pose a higher potential risk of transmission as a result of close proximity and poor ventilation, and that mitigations such as face coverings, ventilation, testing, restrictions on food and drink, and social distancing/capacity caps all contributed to reducing transmission risk.
The research found compliance with social distancing, face covering and testing requirements was generally high across all pilot events . At indoor shows some 96.2% of people in sampled areas were observed wearing face coverings correctly while seated during the events, while at outdoor events it was 92.1%.
It said low uptake of PCR testing before and after events meant evidence of direct transmission at events was challenging to determine. The scientists said that the data must be considered with “extreme caution” because only 15% of attendees returned voluntary PCR tests before and after the events.
According to the report, nearly all CO2 levels recorded at the pilot events were within the bounds of reasonable ventilation benchmarks with outdoor spaces clearly better for ventilation than indoors.
The report’s authors said that when considering the findings of report, it was important to consider that the studies were undertaken while the prevalence of Covid-19 was low and that future public health measures need to adapt to the prevailing levels and patterns of the virus: “Prevalence is likely to rise as we continue to remove restrictions and we may see variants, such as the Delta variant, emerge that are more transmissible and possibly less responsive to vaccines than those encountered during our studies.”
ERP chief advisor Davis Ross said,” It has been a huge team effort and the research and data that we are publishing today will be invaluable for anyone hosting an event once the economy fully reopens.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said, “The findings and learnings will help event organisers plan for large audiences as we move to Step 4 of the roadmap.”
The report is available here.