Prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed today, 12 July, after it was announced by health secretary Sajid Javid in Parliament earlier, that the vast majority of Covid-19 mitigation requirements will be lifted on 19 July.
Requirements such as social distancing, mask wearing and restrictions on the number of attendees at events will be lifted on 19 July but Javid said the Government would encourage businesses and large events to “use Covid certification in high-risk situations”.
With just one week to go until venues can re-open at full capacity, Javid was asked to expand on the Government’s expectations regarding Covid status monitoring.
He said it would not be a legal requirement for eventgoers to show Covid-status certification, but businesses and venues will be expected to have a system in place that enables it to be checked. He said government departments, including the DCMS, are talking to “industry leaders” to create guidelines rather than regulations.
Javid said venue operators would be “supported and encouraged” by government to use the NHS app to check the Covid status of their customers.
Commenting on the move Johnson said, “As a matter of social responsibility we are urging night clubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS app, which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity as a means of entry.”
He also said that while the wearing of face coverings would not be mandatory, Government recommends it in certain circumstances including crowded indoor spaces: “We expect and recommend that people wear face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet such as on public transport.”
While the 19 July re-opening was warmly welcomed by the events industry, there remain caveats that are causing concern, not least a lack of cancellation insurance, a need for international talent to be exempt from quarantine regulations, and the need for self-isolation requirements to change in order to avoid a major impact on event staffing.
Greg Parmley, CEO of Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment (LIVE), a federation of 13 live music industry associations, said that after seeing the £4.6bn live music industry lose 85% of its revenue last year due the pandemic, today is a fantastic day for live music.
“While we have been waiting for this moment for the past year, commercial insurance is still not available – meaning organisers are faced with the prospect of huge financial losses should any restrictions need to change,” he said. “If Government really wants us to get back on our feet, they need to make live events financially viable, provide the insurance scheme they have promised, and give the industry the confidence to invest for the long term.”
AIF CEO Paul Reed reiterated the urgent need for Government-backed events cancelation insurance: “We welcome the health secretary’s confirmation of progressing to Step 4 of the lockdown roadmap. Government has repeatedly stated that once we are at this stage, it will examine if insurance is still an issue for events and intervene if necessary. We are now one week away from this date and the sector needs a long overdue resolution to this problem.”
He also said AIF is working with Government departments on the publication of guidance to ensure that festivals can reopen safely this summer: “Ensuring the safety of audiences and risk mitigation has always been central to what festival organisers do each year and it will continue to be more so than ever as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.”
The Association of Festival Organisers GM Steve Heap said he was delighted to hear the Government has no plans to start charging for lateral flow tests: “While we are, of course, also very pleased the Government will take us to step 4 on 19 July, in order to save the last few events of the 2021 season we must have the necessary guidance immediately as festivals are trying to meet the required regulations at very short notice.”
Production Services Association chair David Keighley said that with Covid infections rising sharply, caution was key: “There is still a level of uncertainty and we all need to be cautious throughout the summer and particularly moving into autumn.”
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland events will be permitted to return from 26 July. Guidance is expected to be announced in the coming days.