UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today (Wednesday) pre-event mass testing could be in place by spring with the first pilot to go live in Salford next month for audiences at indoor and outdoor venues.

He said following a successful pilot event they “hope to go nationwide,” adding that there are “a number of challenges” such as ensuring the technology works and there is a strong distribution network.

“At theatres, we could test all audience members one day and let in all those who are not infectious,” he noted.

Following the shutdown of live events in March, theatres and music venues were given the green light to reopen in England on August 15 with socially distanced audiences. However, many were unable to put on shows as they are often not financially viable for many venues.

During the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 press conference, he also announced that the sporting pilot events programme for fans to return to venues in the UK will be put on hold as England bans social gatherings of more than six people from Monday.

The amended law will reduce the legal limit on social gatherings in England from 30 people to six, and those who are caught breaching the rules could be fined.

The plan to host trials of a number of sporting events with socially distanced spectators will “need to be reviewed,” though he stressed they have not been cancelled. He said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden would give further details later.

Earlier today it was announced that spectators will not now be allowed to attend Doncaster Racecourse from tomorrow until the end of the St Leger Festival on Saturday. Patrons were allowed to attend the meeting today, becoming the first spectators at racing since March.

In August, the UK government announced a tranche of sporting events that would be used to pilot the safe return of spectators with a view to a full reopening for fans in October.

The events covered a range of different event styles across the country’s major men’s and women’s spectator sports. The pre-season friendly between Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea last month became the first Premier League match played in front of fans in almost six months.

Fans were in attendance at the start of the World Snooker Championship last month before spectators were banned.

Image: Martin Fisch / CC BY 2.0 / Edited for size