Reading & Leeds boss proposes coronavirus testing plan to reopen venues and pubs as alternative to social distancing

Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn says 'The Full Capacity Plan' is "very achievable with good organisation"

Reading & Leeds Festival boss Melvin Benn has suggested a proposal that is advocating an increase in coronavirus testing in order to enable the full re-opening of music venues, pubs and sporting events and serve as an alternative to social distancing following the pandemic.

Benn, who is the Managing Director of Festival Republic, has called for the increase in testing as the UK’s leisure industries “cannot operate with the measures that are currently in place”.

‘The Full Capacity Plan’ is instead proposing an incentive-based scheme that will advocate the widespread public use of the NHS COVID-19 App, which aims to automate the process of contact tracing and spark an increase in population testing.

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The Plan is seeking to “connect access to the entertainment and hospitality sector to a mandatory COVID-19 test” which will “create a personal incentive for the population to get frequently tested and use the NHS trace app”.

“This known customer principle provides a safe alternative to social distancing for the entertainment and hospitality sector for ‘known customers’ who have tested free from COVID-19,” the plan states.

Festival Republic hope to work in partnership with the government in order to get people using the app and getting regularly tested for coronavirus in order to access music venues, pubs, theatres and sporting events. If successful, the plan could be in place by November to commence an “industry restart with [an] embedded new process and rapid scaling”.

Melvin Benn
Melvin Benn

“We are currently in a position where the government has capacity to test 1.4 million people a week but testing less than 700,000 because there is no incentive,” Benn said in a statement. “My plan is to create incentive, to test at least double the current capacity and be aiming for 12-15 million people a month being tested minimum.

“I am proposing ‘The Full Capacity Plan’ to stimulate the debate about getting back to normal opening rather than partial opening because partial opening is financial disaster opening. I am proposing ‘The Full Capacity Plan’ because it’s simple and easy, inexpensive in comparison to the subsidies that the government is currently paying and very achievable with good organisation.”

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Speaking to NME last month about the possibility of enforcing social distancing at future music festivals, Isle Of Wight Festival boss and music agent John Giddings said the idea was “ludicrous”.

“Once you give someone a couple of drinks, they’ll start having the best time with all these people. With social distancing you can only fit 15 people on a double decker bus, how is that economically viable? It’s the same for festivals,” Giddings said.

“We pay a million pounds in policing and security for the Isle Of Wight Festival already. How would it be possible to enforce people standing two metres apart? I just can’t see it.”

Reading & Leeds Festival will not take place this year after the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. The festivals are set to return in 2021.

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