Just 28 people who attended pilot events researching the impact of large-scale gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic tested positive for the virus.
That’s according to new data released by scientists working for the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), which was commissioned in February to help determine the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions. This is in addition to initial results first shared last month.
The results from nine large-scale pilot events, as reported by The Independent, show that only 28 people from a total of 58,000 who attended the various entertainment events tested positive for COVID-19 after participating.
ERP scientists described the findings as “reassuring” but warned the results should be taken with “extreme caution” due to only 15 per cent of participants taking PCR tests after the events.
They said the low uptake of PCR testing before and after the nine different pilot tests in the April-May first phase, which ranged from the FA Cup Final to the BRIT Awards and the World Snooker Championships, meant it was “challenging to determine” the way in which the disease was transmitted. However, scientists pressed on the fact that no substantial outbreaks” were connected to the events.
Participants were required to prove a negative lateral flow test, which is less accurate than a PCR test, as a condition of entry to each venue. All attendees were also asked to take a voluntary pre-and post-event PCR test to aid the programme’s research.
As The Independent notes further, the fact that just 15 per cent of attendees took a PCR test pre and post the event has “now raised the possibly that some individuals may been infectious or infected at the time of the event but remained undetected due to the inaccuracy of the LFTs”.
The news follows industry figures criticising the government for failing to publish the full results of more recent COVID event pilots, such as Download Festival and Ascot, or providing festivals with insurance, which would help get live entertainment back on its feet safely.
Festivals including Truck and Kendall Calling announced the cancellation of their July events last week, following the delay to the government’s final exit out of lockdown restrictions, lack of published data and general lack of guidance. A new survey revealed that half of UK festivals have now been cancelled this year.
“The cancellation of Kendal Calling is heartbreaking and, like many other festival cancellations, was entirely avoidable,” Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed told NME.
“The live music and festival industry has spent months participating and investing in pilot events to develop a rationale for how events can safely reopen with the right mitigations in place. Government are now delaying the publication of the ERP report. We call for full transparency and for the release of the report, which will demonstrate how we can safely reopen and inform relevant guidance.”
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said in reaction to the first phase ERP results today (June 25): “Finally, the Event Research Programme Report that Government has been holding back for weeks has been released!
“Out of the first 9 test events, attended by 58,000, only 28 cases were recorded! Only 11 of the 28 were classed as potentially infectious.
“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.”
Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, added: “We are pleased that the government has finally published some of the ERP research but it is incredibly disappointing that it took the live music and the theatre industry launching legal action yesterday to force them to do so.
“We will of course read the report with interest but we are pleased that there were no Covid outbreaks associated with any of the pilots detected, either by testing or by a general increase in community incidence. It is also pleasing to see that the air quality of the indoor events was, in almost all cases, the same or better than being in an office for a short working day.
He continued: “It is completely unfair that our industry finds itself stuck in seemingly-interminable rounds of research before we can open when no such research is being done for other places, such as restaurants, shops or public transport. With sensible mitigations, including simple Covid-certification, there is no reason why we should not be able to reopen on 19 July.”
A second phase of pilot events has also been completed, with data set to be analysed from the group stage matches of Euro 2020 hosted at Wembley Stadium, the Download Pilot music festival and Royal Ascot, which all took place over the last four weeks.
The government had promised to publish the first phase results “shortly” following legal threats from high profile figures including Andrew Lloyd Webber.