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England unveils second phase of pilot events

An England cricket Test match at Edgbaston Stadium has been named in the UK government’s second phase of pilot events for reopening in England, with horse racing’s Royal Ascot and UEFA Euro 2020 group stage games at Wembley Stadium expected to follow.

The announcement today (Wednesday) comes after it emerged that the first phase of Events Research Programme (ERP) trial events led to just 15 COVID-19 cases out of more than 58,000 attendees.

Announced in February, the government’s roadmap details a phased reopening of sectors, with Step 3 coming into effect on May 17. This phase includes a special provision to allow up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower, at large outdoor venues.

The ERP is being used to provide scientific data and research into how small and large-scale events could be permitted in line with the roadmap. The latest set of pilot events is designed to incorporate the period before Step 4 of the roadmap, which would come into effect no earlier than June 21, ending legal limits on social contact and potentially paving the way for large-scale crowds at sporting events this summer.

Edgbaston Stadium’s hosting of the second match of the Test series between England and New Zealand will be the first pilot event within the second phase of the ERP. Taking place in Birmingham from June 10-14, Edgbaston will be able to accommodate around 18,000 spectators each day, 70% of total stadium capacity.

As had already been announced, the BBC reports that Wembley’s staging of England’s first two group games at Euro 2020, which fall before the full reopening target date of June 21, will also be part of the ERP. England play Croatia and Scotland on June 13 and June 18, respectively, with Wembley permitted to have 20,000 fans in attendance.

For Royal Ascot, which runs from June 15-19, permission has reportedly been granted to more than double the originally planned capacity limits to allow around 10,000 spectators per day.

In addition, organisers of Download festival have confirmed that it will welcome 10,000 fans next month for a three-day camping pilot as part of the programme. The event, which cancelled its full edition earlier this year, said it will allow moshing to take place during concerts between June 18-20. Attendees must be willing to stay for the whole weekend, with no day tickets going on sale.

The several pilot events held in Liverpool as part of the ERP showed no spread of transmission, according to the city’s health chief.

More than 13,000 people attended The Good Business Festival conference, two nightclub events hosted by Circus and the Sefton Park Pilot music festival.

The events recorded five people unable to attend after testing positive, four being identified as possibly having COVID-19 at an event and seven having the virus four to seven days after they attended.

Two of those who tested positive afterwards had been to the gig at Sefton Park, while nine had attended the club events.

The research team found that between 25 per cent and 43 per cent of people returned a PCR test after the events, with the Sefton Park Pilot festival seeing three times the number of the other Liverpool pilots due to the incentive of winning tickets to future gigs.