Covid: 'No substantial outbreaks' following government's mass test events

"No substantial outbreaks" of Covid-19 were identified following a series of trial mass events run by the government - including a nightclub and a festival.

Of the 58,000 people who got a glimpse of post-Covid life during the Events Research Programme (ERP) just 28 coronavirus cases were recorded, raising hopes of a return to large scale activity.

Of those cases, 11 were identified as "potentially infectious" at an event while the other 17 were "potentially infected at or around the time of an event," the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said.

But the report into the figures urged "extreme caution" around interpreting the number of positive cases, because of the necessarily limited scale of the events and the low return rates of the pre- and post-event PCR tests.

Coronavirus: What you need to know - listen to the latest episode

Nine pilot events were held across the country - an evening at Circus nightclub in Liverpool, the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, three football matches at Wembley, the BRIT Awards at the O2 Arena, a pilot festival at Sefton Park, Liverpool, and a Reunion 5km run at Kempton Park, Surrey.

All attendees were asked to provide a negative lateral flow test upon entry and to take a voluntary pre and post-event PCR test.

A range of measures to combat transmission of coronavirus were used at the events including staggered entry and exit times, ventilation, social distancing and face masks.

The 2021 Brit Awards was a test event Credit: Ian West/PA

The report highlighted that large indoor events with high crowd density and proximity "may pose a higher potential risk of transmission as a result of close proximity and poor ventilation".

It also acknowledged there was low uptake of PCR testing before and after events, which meant it was "challenging to determine" whether direct transmission of coronavirus had occurred at the events or elsewhere.

The findings have mounted more pressure on the government to give answers to sports venues, theatres, nightclubs, and large event organisers and reopening.

  • Could this mean the return of large scale events like festivals and theatres - listen to our podcast Unscripted for more on the world of entertainment

Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester and co-founder of Parklife festival, said: "On the back of today’s report, I again urge (the) government to announce Event Indemnity Insurance, in line with many other countries.

"You’ve got artists and freelancers who’ve had no income since March 2020. A huge supply chain about to go bust. Time is of the essence. Act now."

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the results of the ERP report showed it was time to “open the night time economy fully”.

A spokeswoman for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s theatre group said the results should pave the way for a "full reopening" of the entertainment industry next month.

"What is clear is that the data shows the events were safe, with almost no Covid cases at all and good air quality," the Really Useful Group and LW Theatres spokeswoman said.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Credit: Tim Whitby/PA

"This should provide a clear path to full reopening on July 19. Instead, the report seems to conclude that a raft of further investigations are needed.

"There is no basis whatsoever for this conclusion and no equivalent demand being made for other activities from shopping to eating out in a restaurant or going on the bus."

Mr Lloyd Webber is looking to take legal action over the issue.

Before the June 21 easing of lockdown in England was delayed, the composer said he was prepared to be arrested if authorities tried to stop the reopening of theatres on intended date.

The second phase of the ERP was completed this month, with cases on the rise again across the country due to the spread of the Delta variant.

Events in the second part of the trial included the Euro 2020 group matches at Wembley, Royal Ascot and the England v New Zealand Test match at Edgbaston.

The government said there are "live discussions" about adding further events to the third phase of the ERP - where providing evidence of a negative test or full vaccination status will continue to be trialled.

Sports clubs, organisers, and theatres are all pushing for the government to make an announcement on the future of large scale events ahead of the final easing of restrictions in England on July 19.