Thousands of music fans went to a concert in Waitangi, New Zealand on Saturday (January 16) for what was the biggest single gig since the coronavirus pandemic began.
New Zealand has managed to tackle and contain the virus so effectively that its alert level sits at one, with only a few imported cases or isolated local cases occurring (it currently has fewer than 80 active cases). This has meant that mass gatherings without social distancing have been able to run since the end of last year.
The concert in question was the first of Six60’s six-date nationwide summer tour. Up to 20,000 people attended the concert at the outdoor show in Waitangi. As Metro reports, concertgoers came into close contact with one another and didn’t need to wear masks.
Last month the nation put on several New Year’s Eve festivals with crowds of up to 20,000. Rhythm and Vines was held in Gisborne, Rhythm & Alps was held in Wanaka, and Northern Bass festival was held in Mangawha. All festivals took place without the need for social distancing.
The news appears in stark contrast with the situation in the UK and beyond. Currently, the UK is battling the containment of a new variant of the virus with a third lockdown. A record 1,500 people died last Wednesday (January 13).
NME spoke to several live music event workers and executives recently about the potential for the UK’s festival season to reopen this year. With a number of vaccines now being rolled out in Britain – and the success of a rapid-testing gig experiment by Primavera Sound in December – some are hopeful of events returning in 2021.
Isle Of Wight Festival boss John Giddings suggested that his event could go ahead this summer if 50 per cent of the audience were vaccinated. “I think you’d probably need for 50 per cent of the audience to be vaccinated, and for 50 per cent to be able to get a test in a very short period of time, like five-to-10 minutes,” he told NME.
“I don’t think that’s unrealistic. Isle Of Wight Festival is six months away, it’s not tomorrow. I just want to help accelerate the process.”
However, Dr Michael Head, a Senior Research Fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, warned that the necessary level of vaccination nationwide might not be reached until the end of summer – and that would limit the chances of festivals being able to run.
“Before the government starts to open things up, and that’s including gigs and festivals, we would want to see all of the vulnerable people vaccinated; all of groups one to nine,” he said.
“We’d want a bare minimum of 50 per cent of the population to be vaccinated, but probably more like 60 per cent. That would probably take us towards the end of the summer at around August or September. I think at that point we could probably start to look at allowing gatherings to happen in larger numbers. If you were planning something very large like Glastonbury, I’d probably be waiting until next year for sure.”