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UK pilot programme report released after legal challenge

The report on the Events Research Programme (ERP) has finally been published after the live sector filed legal action against the UK government to force it to publicly release the data.

The first phase of the pilot programme, which has helped to understand how the risk of transmission can be reduced at large events when mitigating measures are introduced, confirms that just 28 cases of COVID-19 were recorded out of the 58,000 people who attended during the first nine events.

The report has found 11 cases were identified as potentially infectious at an event, and a further 17 were identified as potentially infected at or around the time of an event.

The government said that while additional ERP events continue to gather further evidence, “no decisions have been taken on the full reopening of mass events”, adding that it will set out its position on this ahead of Step 4 in the roadmap on July 19.

It found that both indoor and outdoor events carry levels of transmission risk but ‘pinch points’ in venues where attendees may congregate for extended periods carry greater transmission risk.

Large indoor events with high crowd density and proximity may pose a higher potential risk of transmission, the report states, as a result of close proximity and poor ventilation.

The phase one programme required all attendees to prove a negative lateral flow test as the condition of entry into the events. All attendees were also asked to take a voluntary pre and post event PCR test to aid the programme’s research.

It noted that due to the low uptake of PCR testing before and after events meant evidence of direct transmission at events was “challenging to determine”.

The programme included venues across the country including Liverpool, Sheffield and London. It was supported by event organisers, local authority and public health teams, national and local government officials and nine scientific research teams from five UK universities. The work was overseen by an independently-chaired science and ethics board.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our innovative and science led Events Research Programme is helping us to better understand how the risk of transmission at major events can be effectively mitigated.

“The findings and learnings will help event organisers plan for large audiences as we move to Step 4 of the roadmap.”

Despite being happy that the report has been published, many in the industry see it as evidence of the live sectors being wrongly restricted.

Michael Kill, Night Time Industries Association chief executive, said: “We are being marginalised by a Government that has no regard or value for our sector, we have businesses suffering, peoples livelihoods destroyed and youth culture excluded.”

“It’s time to give us the certainty that we have been crying out for, and open the night time economy fully, no more excuses.”

The news comes after live music industry body LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman sued the government to pressure them to hand over the report of Phase 1 of the ERP.

In the legal action, the parties assert that the Government has “flagrantly breached the duty of candour,” which requires it to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge and that “none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme material they seek withstand scrutiny”.

Find the full report here.