COVID test event cases “largely in line with or below community infection rate”

Coronavirus cases linked to the Event Research Programme (ERP) were “largely in line with or below community infection rate”, new government data has revealed.

Thirty-seven pilot events took place over the course of a four-month period to determine the safety of large-scale gatherings post-COVID lockdown. Included in the programme was Blossoms’ Liverpool show, the BRIT Awards ceremony, Download Festival and Latitude.

Now, data from NHS Test and Trace (published yesterday, August 20) “shows that mass participation events can be conducted safely”, although it urges caution around “specific aspects of event participation”. It takes into account all three phases of the ERP.

The results reveal that “case numbers were largely in line with or below community infection rates for the duration of the programme”, but warn against the potential risks involved in attending “unstructured events”. This also includes travelling to and from events, and mixing indoors before, during and after events.

As per the data, last month’s Latitude and Tramlines festivals have been linked to a higher number of COVID cases (over 1,000 per event) through NHS Test and Trace data than were associated with the Grand Prix (585 cases) and Wimbledon (881) pilots.

Crowds return to a full-capacity edition of Tramlines 2021 (Credit: Getty Images)

However, it should be noted that these festivals took place after all remaining social restrictions were lifted in England on July 19, when community prevalence rates were higher.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said of the findings: “We’ve shown that we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important that people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings.

“So that we can keep the football season, theatres and gigs safe with full crowds this winter, I urge sport, music and culture fans to get the vaccine as this is the safest way we can get big events firing on all cylinders once more.”

Health Minister Lord Bethell added: “Data is our greatest weapon in the fight against the pandemic, and these pilots inform our approach to mass events, now and in the future.

Download Pilot
Fans arrive at Donington Park for the 2021 Download Pilot. Credit: Getty Images.

“These events and the passion of supporters brought joy to millions of people across the country. But the reports make it clear that they also reinforce the need for us to not let our guard down.”

He added: “We all need to comply with the advice accompanying major events to keep everyone safe and so everyone can safely enjoy these important occasions. We can all keep doing our bit by getting tested regularly and getting the vaccine.”

Those attending the Event Research Programme pilots were required to provide either a negative lateral flow coronavirus test, proof of double vaccination or natural immunity prior to entering.

According to yesterday’s release, additional reporting from Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the Events Research Programme is continuing to be compiled and will be published “in due course”. You can read the report in full here.

Festival season is set to continue next weekend with Reading & Leeds 2021, which will require ticketholders to prove their COVID status in order to gain entry.

The government has encouraged businesses and large event organisers to use so-called “COVID passports”, although such initiatives are not mandatory. The Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd told NME he “strongly encourages audiences to look at venue websites, look at their social media and find out what each specific venue is doing that’s relevant to their particular characteristics, their location and demographic”.