The O2 arena in London is to play host to the UK’s biggest indoor event without social distancing restrictions in more than a year for Tuesday’s BRIT Awards as the world’s busiest indoor venue welcomes guests to a live show for the first time since last March.

An audience of 4,000 – including 2,500 frontline workers – will attend what is the UK’s largest indoor pilot event as part of the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).

All attendees must provide proof of a negative lateral flow test in order to enter the venue and will be asked to take a test after the event to assess the safety of indoor events. Performers on the night will include Coldplay, Pink and Dua Lipa, with the event hosted by comedian Jack Whitehall.

The O2 – which was reassigned as an NHS Nightingale hospital last year – will debut a series of alterations made to the arena to boost hygiene and reduce risk. These include the installation of enhanced air filtration systems and the addition of more than 250 hand sanitiser units through partner Unilever’s Lifebuoy.

Within the arena the use of new electrostatic fogging systems before, during and after events ensure that the venue is thoroughly cleaned with an anti-bacterial product that protects surfaces for up to 30 days.

The O2 will also deploy the AXS Mobile ID digital ticketing solution through The O2 Venue App where customers are allocated a digital ID in the form of a dynamic barcode which then regenerates every 60 seconds, preventing fraud and illegal resale of tickets.

Steve Sayer, vice president and general manager of The O2, said: “We’ve spent the past 12 months adapting our operation across the wider campus at The O2 enabling us to reopen parts of the venue to the public for outlet shopping and dining, but the arena is the beating heart at the centre of this incredible destination and we’ve missed our fans and the bands as much as they’ve missed us.”

The O2 said it has begun a collaboration with Collinson to convert a section of its car parking facilities into a walk-up and drive-in asymptomatic testing site. The company offers both PCR and lateral flow tests that enable customers to meet government regulations for foreign travel, and a recent extension of the facility will see this in place through until the end of June.

Testing is a major part of the pilot event, with all guests taking an NHS Lateral Flow Test in the 36 hours prior to the event, and a PCR test on the day and five days after the event which are both sent for laboratory testing to assess any transmission from the event.

“It is clear that continued levels of regular testing are going to be around for some time and may be the enabler for life to return to some levels of former normality whether for events or overseas travel,” a spokesperson said.

Over the last year, The O2 has enhanced the level of filtration for all fresh air coming into the arena in line with recommendations from UK authorities. There is a smart temperature-controlled ventilation system in place which brings fresh air in through vents in the ceiling, evacuating spent air through the roof of the venue ensuring fresh controlled air throughout. Carbon dioxide levels are constantly monitored and the ERP group has installed around 75 additional sensors to monitor CO2 level changes throughout the event.

Through partner Rentokil Initial, The O2 will see the installation of a cutting edge VIRUSKILLERTM air purification technology which is proven to kill 99.9999% of viruses, including coronavirus. The units also decontaminate the air, by not only trapping but also killing airborne viruses, bacteria and fungi which helps the venue mitigate risk.

Some 4,000 guests for the BRIT Awards will be split between two groups outside The O2’s main entrance where we will check their negative COVID-19 Lateral Flow Test result before allowing them into The O2. Once inside for the pilot event there will not be any social distancing measures in place, however customers are expected to wear a face covering at all times except when in their seat or suite.

Danielle Kennedy-Clark, the venue’s deputy general manager and operations director, who has been leading the organisation of the pilot event, said: “Operationally we are used to safely welcoming around 20,000 guests into the arena, while the wider campus is open to visitors shopping, dining and enjoying the other activities on site.

“We’re well staffed and our guest relations teams are looking forward to getting back to carrying out their frontline roles welcoming guests and helping them to their seats. Our digital ticketing and COVID-19 security measures mean we are able to do this in a smooth and contactless manner.”

Earlier this month, a Blossoms gig in Liverpool’s Sefton Park became the first outdoor event to be held without social distancing rules as part of the ERP.