With restrictions on live events easing from June, event organisers and contractors are under pressure to implement measures that not only detect would be attendees who have Covid-19, but to reduce potential transmission and keep their own teams safe. It’s a high stakes situation because many firms won’t survive another national lockdown or restriction on attendee numbers.
Managing social distancing and reducing transmission
There are some obvious solutions. More ‘front of house’ teams using rapid flow testing and logging attendees in with QR code apps. Additional traffic control barriers, sanitizer stations, the availability of free disposable face masks and utilising outdoor space. Genuine PPE, UK PPE suppliers reported a sharp rise in orders from event contractors in preparation of a gradual lifting of restrictions in May and June. It appears that event companies have learnt a lesson from the national shortage of PPE last Spring and are ordering supplies early.
Roadmap for live events
Under the current roadmap, the live events and music industry can legally operate indoor business and music events from May 17. Strict social distancing guidelines will have to be followed and attendance is capped to 1,000 attendees or 50% of capacity indoors — whichever is lower. With the use of outdoor space, the numbers are capped to 4,000 or 50% capacity outdoors and 10,000 or 25% capacity if seated outdoors.
Given the economic threshold for most business and music events is around 80% of maximum capacity, activities under these limits will further exacerbate the sector’s financial crisis. As well as affecting event organisers, a cap on capacity impacts the whole supply chain. From design agencies to hospitality, production, transportation, and logistics firms.
ESSA, the Event Suppliers and Services Association, is one of many event associations which has explicitly welcomed the introduction of a vaccine passport.
An ESSA spokesperson said: “The live events and music industry will work with the Government on COVID-status certification to support full reopening and sector recovery.
“The live events and music industry which includes exhibitions; conferences; music arenas; festivals; theatres and indoor sporting events, welcomes the establishment of the Events Research Programme and the safe return of live events as part of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The industry is committed to working with the Government to ensure a swift delivery of the Event Research Programme’s pilot events and stands ready to establish protocols based upon the information and guidance they provide.”
The continued rollout of vaccines to all age groups and a vaccine passport is the industry’s best hope of getting back to hosting large scale events.
ESSA believes that the introduction of COVID-status certificates (not to be confused with a vaccine passport) could be an effective and pragmatic temporary measure that would give confidence to customers that events are safe to attend. A COVID-status certificate could be a non-discriminatory way to show that a person either has natural immunity, been vaccinated, or has tested negative prior to the event.
The Government’s Events Research Programme will assess the various control measures that businesses could be legally forced to introduce.
The live events industry is worth over £70 billion per year to the UK’s economy, and it is a sector where many businesses will struggle to reopen at their 2019 scale. Like hospitality, many staff in the industry are still on furlough. A full re-opening of live events cannot come soon enough.