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Events industry leaders back COVID-status certification for June reopening

Senior figures from across the UK’s live events and music industry have urged the Government to progress the deployment of COVID-status certification to support full reopening of events from June.

Ticketmaster UK, See Tickets, AEG Europe and Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) are among the dozens of signatories to a statement in support of COVID-status certification as a “temporary measure” and “pragmatic solution” enabling events to resume at commercially viable attendance levels.

While the signatories from across exhibitions, conferences, music arenas, festivals, theatres and indoor sporting events pledged their support for the Government’s Events Research Programme of trial events and the easing of restrictions in the coming weeks, they noted that events are not economically viable at less than 80-per-cent capacity.

The “grave economic impacts” of continuing restrictions mean the industry leaders back the Events Research Programme’s consideration of COVID-certification as an enabler of all event types to return to capacity audiences, without masks or social distancing.

They said they want to collaborate with the authorities in the coming weeks in finding solutions to outstanding concerns and challenges about the introduction of the system so that certification can assist the full reopening of events from Stage Four of the roadmap from June 21.

“We would support a blanket, industry-wide introduction of COVID-status certification on a temporary basis, to permit the full relaxation of capacity limits from Stage Four of the Government’s roadmap,” the group said.

“Implementation would be subject to the provision of clear and timely guidance from the Government, it being simple to understand and be of little cost to businesses. We would expect that any certification is imposed fairly across the economy, reviewed regularly, and removed when it is safe to do so.

“The introduction of COVID-status certificates as a temporary measure could be a pragmatic solution that would enable events to resume at commercially viable attendance levels and will also give further confidence to customers that events are safe to attend.”

Under the current roadmap, the live events and music industry can plan for the return of some indoor business and music events from May 17. These will follow social distancing guidelines and have attendance capped to the lower of 1,000 people or 50 per cent of capacity indoors, 4,000 or 50-per-cent capacity outdoors and 10,000 or 25-per-cent capacity if seated outdoors.

The Government’s reviews announced in the roadmap in February – COVID-status certification, social distancing, and the Events Research Programme – will explore different access control measures that businesses could be legally required to introduce.

The group distanced itself from the term ‘vaccination passports’, describing COVID-status certification as a means of reducing the likelihood of people who may be infected from attending events and ensure the safety of other attendees and event staff.

“This would be managed by ensuring that all attendees are either vaccinated or have natural immunity or have a negative COVID test within a set period of time prior to arrival,” the group added in the statement.

“COVID tests are now available free of charge to all UK adults. The intention of COVID-status certification is to find a non-discriminatory solution that is safe, simple, protects privacy and doesn’t cause unnecessary delays or a poor experience for visitors.

“We recognise there are many issues to be addressed including how the technology would work, its viability for use at a range of different events and related data protection issues, for both the attendees and the organisers.

“The industry is committed to working at speed with the Government to help address these issues over the coming weeks as part of its considerations. It is essential that the industry has visibility and certainty as soon as possible on the form this government guidance will take so that it is able to plan effectively.”

Other signatories include the Royal Albert Hall, The O2, Association of Festival Organisers and Music Venue Trust. NEC Group, British Athletics, Matchroom Sport and Kilimanjaro Live Group also signed.

Last week it was announced that none of the test events taking place in April and May – including the FA Cup final at Wembley on May 15, which is expected to welcome 20,000 fans – will require attendees to prove their vaccination status. “Participants in the ERP pilots published to date will have to provide a basic COVID certification that they have tested negative for COVID-19,” a DCMS statement read.

Speaking to The Guardian, Alex Trenchard, the founder of the Standon Calling festival, outlined the importance of technology in deploying the COVID certification programme to ensure costs and labour are limited.

He said: “What is important is that the COVID certification integrates through the IT with my ticketing, otherwise you are going to have to introduce a lot of human input which maybe leads to more errors and a time-consuming process.”

Meanwhile, The Good Business Festival has announced its launch event ‘Change Business for Good’, the first in-person, live business event happening in the UK since the first national lockdown in March 2020. 

The launch event on April 28 at ACC Liverpool — part of the Events Research Programme — will feature lateral flow testing before and after the event.

Faye Dyer, managing director of The ACC Liverpool Group, said: “We are pleased to be hosting the first live business event in the UK following the latest lockdown and it will be fantastic to be able to open our doors to 1,000 delegates for the first time since last March. 

“This follows covid SMART testing which was piloted at a smaller business conference at our venue in December, showing that once again Liverpool is leading the way in supporting efforts to reignite business events which remain vital for economic recovery.”

Wayne Hemingway, creative director at The Good Business Festival, said: “Business and business leaders have the power to tackle the biggest problems in our society and Covid-19 has demonstrated that some businesses are walking the walk in this respect (though there are still plenty merely talking the talk) The Good Business Festival Act 1 was hard hitting and heavy on outcomes and actions and Act 2 will be a platform to develop these conversations and connections needed to drive positive change in society.”