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UK government publishes ‘ERP’ data on making events Covid-safe


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The British music industry had been furious about the UK government’s failure to publish the findings of its ‘Events Research Programme’ (ERP), which had run a series of pilot live events to test Covid-safe measures: mainly sports and music, with the latter category including an outdoor festival, an indoor club event, and the Brit Awards.

However, last week’s legal action from the live industry nudged the government into action, and the report into those first pilots was published on Friday. The findings will be pored over well beyond the UK to understand some of the challenges in getting live music back up and running in countries where Covid-19 lockdown measures are still in place.

Some of the findings are unsurprising. Indoor events are riskier than outdoor ones, particularly around spaces (entry and exit points, restaurants etc) where there are moments of “high-density” crowds. “Unstructured and energetic activity with a high crowd density” (yes, dancing) “may lead to higher airborne transmission risks” too, but masks, ventilation, testing, capacity caps and other measures can help to varying degrees.

More concerning is the part on people’s willingness to do the Covid-19 tests that were a key part of these pilots. Only 28 positive cases were identified of people potentially catching Covid-19 during these events. But the report notes “the very low return rate of pre- and post-event PCR tests (only 15% returned both tests)” – and this for pilots where every attendee knew how important those tests would be for collecting data.

The positive part that the live music and sports industries are seizing upon, though: “No substantial outbreaks were identified by public health teams and their surveillance systems around any of the events.” That will up the pressure on the government to set out a clear roadmap for allowing more of these events to be run again, although there will be a second and a third phase of the ERP to provide more data in the meantime.

Stuart Dredge

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