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New stats from the Events Research Programme further confirms full capacity shows can be COVID safe

By | Published on Monday 23 August 2021

Live Music

The UK government has published more data from its Events Research Programme showing that, generally speaking, the number of people who contracted COVID-19 at any one show that took place as part of the scheme was pretty much in line with general infection rates at the time said events occurred. The conclusion is that “mass participation events can be conducted safely, but caution must still be taken around specific aspects of event participation”.

A series of events were held earlier this year as part of the ERP, most taking place when full capacity shows – or any shows at all – were not allowed under COVID regulations. The aim was to confirm that full capacity shows could safely return – and to identify what measures venues and promoters could employ to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading at their events.

The latest stats released from the programme look at how many COVID cases were recorded by the NHS Test And Trace system following each ERP event. Generally speaking the number of people contracting COVID was in line with – or below – community infection rates at the time any one event took place.

Obviously community infection rates have been in flux over that time, which impacts on infections at any one event.

So both the Latitude and Tramlines festivals recorded over 1000 infections each, while the Wimbledon Championships recorded 881 COVID cases despite having a much bigger audience over the two weeks of the event. However, the music festivals took place after the lifting of most COVID regulations in England, meaning that community infection rates were higher at the time those events occurred.

It’s also important to note that where people tested positive for COVID after attending an ERP event, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s where they contracted the virus. ERP researchers have tried to account for that in their review of the Test And Trace stats.

It has to be said, the new figures from the ERP pretty much confirm what we already knew. Including that, although shows, concerts and sporting events can go ahead without causing significant COVID spikes, there are various measures that should be instigated to mitigate the risk of infection.

Alongside its release of the new stats, the government said on Friday: “A cautious approach should be taken at unstructured events involving attendees being in close proximity for extended periods of time, when spectators are at high-density pinch points at venues, when travelling to and from events, and when mixing indoors before, during and after events”.

Commenting on the latest release of ERP stats, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says: “We’ve shown that we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important that people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings. So that we can keep the football season, theatres and gigs safe with full crowds this winter, I urge sport, music and culture fans to get the vaccine as this is the safest way we can get big events firing on all cylinders once more”.

Meanwhile Health Minister James Bethell adds: “Data is our greatest weapon in the fight against the pandemic, and these pilots inform our approach to mass events, now and in the future”.

“These events and the passion of supporters brought joy to millions of people across the country”, he goes on. “But the reports make it clear that they also reinforce the need for us to not let our guard down. We all need to comply with the advice accompanying major events to keep everyone safe and so everyone can safely enjoy these important occasions. We can all keep doing our bit by getting tested regularly and getting the vaccine”.