The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it will be “very unrealistic” to see stadium events back for the remainder of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
- Read more: Crew members call on government to save future of live music industry: “You wouldn’t re-open a hospital without doctors”
Speaking during an online discussion, Michael Ryan – executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme – said it would be “disastrous” to allow the return of stadium events in countries who still have “community-level transmission” of coronavirus.
As reported on AFP, Ryan said: “Large crowds of 40,000, 50,0000, 60,000 people…it’s not just the risk of being in the stadium – it’s the risk of going to the stadium, the public transport, the bars and the clubs.”
He continued: “Imagine all the problems we have now with nightclubs and bars, and you squeeze all of that together into a four- or five-hour experience, where thousands of people go on the same public transport to a venue, get involved in the social aspects before a game, be involved in the game and then all of the social aspects after.
In the context of community transmission, that could be disastrous.”
Ryan added that he expected stadiums to allow events with a small number of socially distanced fans to continue.
“We’re just going to have to be careful for a good bit longer. It’s very unrealistic in countries with community transmission that we’re going to be seeing large gatherings like that this year. Right now, it’s hard to see those fully reopened venues.”
Around the world, New Zealand has been able to host major arena and stadium events. Both Japan and South Korea have also opened some sports stadiums to fans.
In the UK, while audiences are allowed to return to indoor gigs for events with social distancing from today (August 15), the majority of venues in the UK will be unable to do so.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that music venues will be able to re-open with social distancing measures in place, nightclubs and dance halls still remain closed.
However, the Music Venue Trust revealed that the majority of indoor gig spaces in the UK are either physically unable to operate or can’t do so in a way that’s financially viable – especially at such short notice.
“Essentially this is good news, because the government has now moved to stage four, which is one step closer to stage five which is gigs functioning at something like full capacity,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd told NME. “The problem with stage four is that social distancing doesn’t work in around two thirds of venues. That’s not just about getting people in, but also not being able to manage the space to use the toilet, get to the bar, and more physical issues.”
One of the first post-lockdown outdoor gigs in the UK took place earlier this week, with Sam Fender playing live in Newcastle at a specially built socially-distanced venue.
Reviewing the gig, NME said: “The opening riff of its Springsteen-style pop-rock gem ‘Will We Talk?’ immediately cuts through the fear that the socially distanced pods will prevent a sense of connection tonight.
“It’s as if this year’s hardships have only strengthened the audience’s love of live music, slice-of-life fan favourite ‘The Borders’ inciting a mass singalong that brings an endearing smile to Fender’s face.”