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Music industry has mixed reaction to removal of remaining COVID restrictions in England

By | Published on Monday 21 February 2022


The Night Time Industries Association has welcomed news that the UK government will today confirm the lifting of all the remaining COVID restrictions in England, in particular the legal requirement for those who test positive to self-isolate.

However, some in the music community see both positives and negatives to that change in the rules, particularly if – as feared – free COVID testing is also phased out.

Ministers plan to provide guidance rather than legally enforceable rules when it comes to things like self-isolation. That does provide more flexibility, which some hope will speed up the revival of the night-time and live entertainment sectors. Although – with some medical experts and opposition politicians arguing that the move to axe the remaining COVID regulations is premature – others fear it could actually result in a new spike of COVID cases, potentially setting things back.

Either way, many artists and venues will still encourage fans to take a COVID test prior to attending shows, and to stay away if they test positive. Though if the government does start to phase out free COVID tests as part of its ‘hey, the pandemic’s over, right?’ strategy, fewer people are likely to comply with that guidance.

Nevertheless, the NTIA is basically positive about the latest development, with its CEO Michael Kill telling reporters: “The withdrawal of the remaining COVID restrictions is welcomed by the industry, and will further support business recovery and go some way to regaining customer confidence. Our responsibility to keep customers and staff safe remains our focus, maintaining baseline mitigations as we have done since [night-time businesses were allowed to re-open after the original lockdown]”.

That said, like the Association Of Independent Festivals said last week, the NTIA argues that the industry needs further government support even as businesses are allowed to operate again without any COVID restrictions. “Experts have suggested that recovery to pre-COVID trading levels will take several years”, Kill added, “[and] we cannot lose sight of the short term role that the government must continue to play in supporting the sector, beginning with the Chancellor’s budget in March”.

Also commenting on the latest change in COVID rules in England is Music Venue Trust boss Mark Davyd, who told NME that there are both positives and negatives to the new position being taken by the UK government. The changes could provide some extra certainty to those artists planning tours, but, “on the negative side”, he added, “it remains the case that a significant number of vulnerable people, particularly the immunosuppressed, face the choice of taking known risks to take part in live music, both artists and audiences”.

Noting the extra problems that could be caused if free COVID testing is axed, Davyd added: “Grassroots music venues have done all they can to make their spaces as safe as they can be to manage those risks, including encouraging audiences to take a test and consider the use of masks. The removal of access to the free testing regime is a likely next step, and that’s a complicated situation for venues who want to continue to do all they can to protect their community”.