Masks not required: Trial Liverpool business festival could determine future of large public events

No masks required and shaking hands could become a more common sight thanks to this pilot event Credit: Good Business Festival

Guests at a pilot business event were told they do not need to wear a face covering or practice social distancing while meeting in person.

The Good Business Festival's trial in Liverpool was part of a government programme researching how to get audiences back safely to big events as restrictions are gradually eased.

Organisers said attendees, who must first have received a negative Covid test result, were playing a vital role in the study which may support the reopening of live events and venues.

Data from the event could have a bearing on how many different venues - from major sport stadiums to theatres, live music spaces, wedding venues to conference centres - could operate this summer.

The pilot, called Change Business for Good, included an insight into what the world might look like in the coming years after Covid.

One of the Covid testing sites at ACC Liverpool Credit: Good Business Festival

Under festival rules, attendees must live in the Liverpool City Region and have received a negative Lateral Flow Test the day before the event from a testing centre.

As part of the scientific study, there was no requirement to wear a face covering or practice social distancing during the event inside the waterfront Arena and Convention Centre.

However guests have been asked to take a PCR test at home on the day of the event and also five days after the event. 

A vision of the future? Crowds are welcomed to the trial event Credit: Good Business Festival

Speakers included tourism minister Nigel Huddleston, the founder of Northern Power Women Simone Roche MBE and Felicia Odamtten, the founder of The Black Economists Network.

The festival featured discussions about how health, growth and social recovery are intrinsically linked to business as the country moves out of lockdown.

It also examined how firms can drive future success while ensuring they contribute towards improving the environment, reducing inequality and ‘levelling-up’ regions.

Professor Iain Buchan, executive dean of the Institute of Population Health at the University of Liverpool, said: "This event is safer than other gatherings of people who haven't been tested beforehand.

"We've thought very carefully about whether or not face coverings were needed.

"We're not mandating that people don't wear face coverings, people must do what they feel comfortable with, but at the current very low rates of the virus, particularly around Liverpool, and with the testing in place, we have made a public health decision that we don't need now to wear face coverings at this event."

He said researchers were monitoring factors such as how fresh the air was in the venue and how people flowed around the area.

Prof Buchan said: "This marks a really important reopening of people connecting over a business festival, interacting in a way that has been online, which has been good enough to keep business going, but it doesn't have that social fabric that comes along with everyday contact.

"This is important for people's mental health, wellbeing and economic prosperity."

The government says findings from the pilot events will be reported to the Prime Minister to feed into wider discussions around Step 4 of the lockdown restrictions.

The Good Business Festival's main event is due to take place Wednesday 7 - Friday 9 July at venues across the Liverpool City Region.