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UK pilot events to assess crowd safety without social distancing

Pilots to examine how events can reopen safely are being lined up by the UK government, with tests ranging from large sporting events to small cultural shows.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it will stage “around a dozen” sporting and cultural events this spring, as part of the Events Research Programme (ERP), which will inform government decisions on stage four of its COVID-19 reopening roadmap.

Liverpool, London and Sheffield have been allocated as the cities to host the pilot events, with Merseyside to test crowd safety at nightclubs, comedy clubs and business event venues.

The events, including the FA Cup final at London’s Wembley and the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, will provide data into reopening venues in line with the roadmap out of lockdown, which aims to remove all restrictions in England by June 21.

Venues and organisers will gather evidence and share their experience with others in the event industry. Pilot events will require attendees to have a negative COVID-19 test beforehand and will also be tested afterwards to ensure any transmission is monitored.

The movements of audiences will be studied at the test events, some of which will include spectators not socially distanced while “under carefully controlled medical supervision”, a government spokesman said.

The non-socially distanced events will also test a range of “non-pharmaceutical mitigating interventions” such as the “layout of the venue, face coverings and ventilation”, while the ERP will also look at factors including travel to and from events.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing.

“We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.

“These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave and that I’m fully focused on delivering.”

The FA Cup final in May could go ahead with up to 20,000 fans under proposals being considered by the UK government, BBC Sport reports, although attendance figures have not yet been confirmed. The match is due to take place at London’s 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium on May 15, two days before Step 3 would come into effect.

Another test event being considered is the World Snooker Championship, which takes place at The Crucible in Sheffield from April 17 to May 3.

Claire McColgan, director of culture and tourism in Liverpool said: “Liverpool is an event city. They are a critical part of our economy, culture and community and so we are delighted to be working with partners across Government, our colleagues at University of Liverpool and a number of local venues and promoters to plan this series of pilot events.

“Our experience as the pilot city for mass testing means we have the knowledge and infrastructure in place to deliver complicated projects safely, and we really hope we can help provide the evidence needed to ensure the wider sector is able to open across the country in the coming months.”

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