The UK’s biggest music concert in more than a year is to take place this weekend as reports suggest scientists believe pilot schemes have proven that social distancing at major events is no longer required to keep the spread of COVID-19 under control.
Some 5,000 fans will gather in Liverpool’s Sefton Park on Sunday for a sold-out gig by indie band Blossoms, which is part of the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).
Organised by Festival Republic, in tandem with ERP officials, there will be no requirements for social distancing or masks and ‘rule of six’ regulations will also not apply at the Sefton Park Pilot.
Tickets, limited to one per person, were available for adults who live in the Liverpool City Region and registered with a GP there. Those hoping to buy tickets had to complete a questionnaire, which included questions about involvement in the ERP study and personal health and hygiene.
To validate their tickets, people must receive a negative Lateral Flow Test the day before the event from a testing centre, and be healthy and showing no sign of COVID-19 symptoms. Attendees will also be asked to take a test after the event to gather further evidence on the safety of outdoor settings, reduced social distancing and the removal of non-pharmaceutical mitigations like face coverings.
Those attending will be required to follow existing Government guidance on the use of face coverings when travelling to the venue and adhering to rules set out by the event organisers.
Speaking earlier this month, Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, said: “Secretary of State Oliver Dowden and his team at DCMS are showing real commitment to making this a reality by launching the Event Research Programme and including the Sefton Park Pilot. I’m delighted to be able to support the Government’s efforts to get the live music industry back up and running. This gig is about our absolute commitment to demonstrate that we can and will open on June 21.”
This week also saw Liverpool host a non-socially distanced conference with more than 400 delegates attending the Good Business Festival at ACC Liverpool as part of the ERP. Around 3,000 people will tonight attend an indoor club night at the city’s Circus Nightclub.
This weekend will also see The Crucible theatre in Sheffield at full capacity for the World Snooker Championships final. Some 1,000 fans will be able to attend, with only a third of seats allowed to be filled for first round games earlier this month.
“The evidence from these pilots will be used to inform and shape government policy to bring about the phased return of fuller audiences to venues and events across England,” DCMS officials said.
The introduction of non-socially distanced test events comes as today’s Daily Telegraph reports that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be told next week that there were no spikes in COVID cases among attendees at the initial ERP pilots which began earlier this month.
Scientists will state in a report that social distancing is not required at large-scale events, such as concerts and sports fixtures, with precautions like staggering entries and good ventilation sufficient.
A source familiar with the report, according to the Telegraph, said ministers will be told that the pilots have shown “there are some effective ways to manage risk that could remove the need to have social distancing at events”. The conclusions will be framed as an “initial view” from scientists – with more pilot events coming next month.