The prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a four-week delay to Step 4 of the reopening roadmap in England, meaning that events will not be able to operate at full capacity without social distancing until July 19 at the earliest.
He said the decision to delay the re-opening was made in reaction to concern around the spread of the Delta Covid-19 variant, which has resulted in a 64% week-on-week rise in infections and the average number of people being admitted to hospitals in England increasing by 50% week-on-week, and by 61% in the northwest.
Johnson said that by 19 July, the Government will have “double jabbed” around two-thirds of the adult population, including everyone aged over 50, with a Covid-19 vaccine.
“We will bring forward our target to give every adult in this country the first dose by the 19 July, that is including young people over the age of 18,” said Johnson.
He said the Government would move to Step 4 sooner if Covid-19 statistics improve but until then events will not be able to operate at full capacity: “We will continue to pilot events such as the Euro 2020 matches, and some theatrical performances. We will monitor the position everyday but if after two weeks we’ve concluded that the risk has diminished then we reserve the possibility for proceeding to Step 4 and a full opening sooner.”
The current cap for indoor events in England is 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, while outdoors events can accommodate 4,000 or 50% of a venue’s capacity. Seated stadium events for up to 10,000 can continue to take place, if the stadium has a minimum capacity of 20,000, and special dispensation will be given to stage 2 of the Event Research Programme (ERP), such as UEFA Euro 2020 football matches and Government-selected music events.
The live events industry has reacted to the announced delay to Step 4 with frustration and concern.
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is calling for urgent intervention from Government for festivals. It said more than a third of this year’s festivals have already been cancelled due to the pandemic and the uncertain environment created by the Government’s refusal to back an insurance scheme for the sector.
AIF analysis suggests that, with the four-week delay of Step 4 to July 19 in place, 93% of remaining UK festivals over 5,000-capacity could still potentially go ahead this summer – but not without insurance.
AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “The AIF fully understands the rationale for delaying Step 4 of the lockdown roadmap. However, any measures that prevent festivals from operating fully have to be counterbalanced with effective support to ensure businesses can survive.
“AIF and its industry partners remain ready and willing to work with the Government on the details of a support package that will save British businesses.”
The delay in lifting the last remaining Covid restrictions will, according to live music industry association LIVE, cost the sector around £500m as the result of the cancellation of over 5,000 planned events.
LIVE CEO Greg Parmley said, “Following more than a year of confusion, lost revenue and cancellations, we are devastated the Government has not set out any clear path for the restart of the live music industry. The Government has been quick to talk up the success of the vaccine rollout, but other countries are now ahead of us in opening up full capacity events with simple Covid certification processes, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the US.
“The Government must also provide urgent emergency financial support to those impacted by today’s decision. There are hundreds of millions of pounds from the much-vaunted Culture Recovery Fund unallocated, despite being 15 months on from the start of the crisis. This money needs to get into the industry without any more delay.”
Among the festivals forced to cancel or reschedule is Black Deer. The event was originally planned for 18-20 June this year with a line-up including Van Morrison. Within days of the prime minister’s 22 February announcement of the reopening timeline, the Black Deer team had rescheduled again for June 25-27, with plans for a full 20,000-capacity event.
The move will also put pressure on promoters of events such as Latitude (40,000), Standon Calling (15,000) and WOMAD (40,000), which are due to take place shortly after the rescheduled reopening on the weekend of 22-25 July.
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said that delaying the easing of Covid-19 restrictions marked a “catastrophic blow” for the live music industry: “People across the industry have had 21 June circled in their calendar as the date they can finally get back to work after more than a year and make a living again. But that hope has now been crushed and their futures are shrouded in uncertainty at a time when they most need clarity.
“There is a very real risk now of permanent damage to our sector in terms of a loss of talent and expertise – the live industry has warned there are 5,000 shows at risk of collapse, 250 grassroots music venues at risk of eviction and losses running at hundreds of millions of pounds.
“This delay is particularly disappointing because of the lengths to which the music industry has gone to reduce the risk of transmission and develop effective safe working protocols. We worked with the Government on the recent pilot events, which were a huge success and saw just a handful of Covid-19 cases among the 58,000 people who attended.”
The National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) president Tom Clements said, “This is a highly responsible industry, well-regulated and committed to audience safety first on every occasion. We should be in control of whether or not events happen, not a politicised government. In effect, we’ve been left with no structure of support, no specific financial help for businesses, and are an industry being kicked into the cold despite a complete lack of evidence.”
We Are The Fair CEO Nick Morgan said, “Last week, I reached exhaustion point after speaking to various government departments for over nine months with seemingly little traction. I feel extremely frustrated at how far the [Public Health England] ‘goalposts’ have moved in the last quarter. Seemingly, it has achieved its objective – scaring the government into postponing Phase 4.
“To date, I have not seen any modelling data that supports a reason not to unlock.”