Events Research Programme reports 'no substantial outbreaks' following first pilots

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Events Research Programme reports 'no substantial outbreaks' following first pilots

Related tags: Coronavirus, Vaccine passport, Government, Events, Night-time economy

The first phase of a pilot scheme set up to explore the impact of large-scale events on Covid-19 transmission has reported 'no substantial outbreaks'.

Some 58,000 participants attended indoor and outdoor venues across the country, including in Liverpool, Sheffield and London, during April and May as part of the Events Research Programme (ERP), with just 28 associated cases of infection subsequently reported. 

Of those 28 cases, the report has found 11 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.

Commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in February, the ERP aims to explore how reopening of events can be conducted safely, including without social distancing, whilst limiting the transmission of Covid -19 as much as possible.

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.

Pilot events tested a range of mitigating factors including staggered entry and exit times and ventilation in venues as well as testing the suspension of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as face masks and social distancing for research purposes.

Nine events took place in total during the first phase of the ERP, including at Circus nightclub in Liverpool, which hosted nearly 7,000 people over two nights and saw 10 cases recorded; and at Sefton Park, which threw an outdoor festival for more than 6,000 people and recorded just two cases.

Other events include the FA Cup final, the Brit Awards, and the World Snooker Championship.

The report acknowledges that the transmission numbers reflect the rigorous testing regime in place for attendance at each event and relatively low levels of community prevalence of Covid-19 at the time of running the first phase of pilots.

It also acknowledges that uptake of post-event PCR tests, used to measure transmission, was also low.

A second phase of pilot events has already been completed that included group stage Uefa Euro 2020 football matches hosted at Wembley Stadium, the Download pilot music festival, and Royal Ascot, with research into the events still being gathered and analysed by the ERP science team. A third phase is also planned, which will include the Wimbledon Championships, Goodwood Festival of Speed, Latitude, and the Grange Opera Festival.

The findings from the events will feed into the Government’s review of Covid-status certification - more commonly referred to as 'vaccine passports'.

UKHospitality has welcomed publication of the data, stating it will help businesses running mass events begin preparations for their resumption and help inject confidence across the sector.

“The report acknowledges that, across the course of the pandemic, businesses reliant on events have been hit disproportionately hard by the restrictions in place on operating venues, such as social distancing and capacity limits," says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.

"This has resulted in significant and widespread commercial impact and ongoing loss of revenue. These businesses have needed to rely heavily on Government support, which has been welcome, but are now desperate to trade their way to recovery and welcome back guests.

“The report’s findings that there were no substantial outbreaks of Covid-19 identified following any of the first phase of test events, along with the continued success of the vaccine programme, should give the Government confidence to go ahead with a full and final lifting of restrictions next month.

"Hospitality can play its part in the UK’s economic recovery but only if given permission to trade freely.”

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