A dozen test events are set to be held across the UK in April and May to trial the idea of crowds with no social distancing.
As revealed by Oliver Dowden, head of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the events in question cover major sporting fixtures, music award ceremonies and nightclub events.
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At present, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has proposed June 21 as the date by which practically all aspects of normal living can resume, including the removal of social distancing, and Dowden has pinpointed a series of events before that date to trial having larger crowds in attendance than allowed by law at that particular time.
In a new interview with The Sunday Times, Dowden specified that the events – which come under the umbrella of the Events Research Programme (ERP) – will include the World Snooker Championship final on April 17, the football FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium on May 15, and the BRIT Awards at London’s O2 Arena two days later.
Other events targeted include a nightclub event, a comedy club night and more.
“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing,” Dowden said. “We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.
“These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave, and that I’m fully focused on delivering.”
The news comes weeks after live music trials were announced for London and Bristol. London’s 100 Club and Bristol’s The Exchange are set to try out a digital “health passport” app called You Check in a bid to reopen live gigs safely.
UK festival bosses and scientists spoke to NME this month about the prospect and potential worries of large-scale events returning without social distancing this summer.
Dr Michael Head is a Senior Research Fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, and he told NME that while feeling optimistic for the summer, people should “be careful that we’re prepared for any new COVID variants that might impact on the vaccine”.
“It is a very real possibility that these variants might emerge and become dominant in the UK and elsewhere to lower the effectiveness of the vaccines that we have,” he told NME.
“At the minute, policy dictates that all events can return from June. What we need to be careful of is that we don’t lose all caution and rush to the pub and these events. We need to exercise a little bit of common sense and pragmatism because there will still be a little bit of COVID knocking around.”