News, Culture & Society

Mass gatherings ARE safe! Just 17 Brits out of 58,000 Brits test positive in Government pilot

Just 17 people caught Covid out of nearly 60,000 who attended non-socially distanced mass events as part of a Government pilot in England. 

One of the experts behind the scheme, Liverpool University’s Professor Iain Buchan, said there had been ‘outbreaks of joy’ at the events, but no outbreaks of the virus. 

Professor Buchan, a public health expert, described the findings as ‘reassuring’ and added: ‘I hope we can all enjoy events like this in the time to come.’

It has raised hopes that festivals, nightclubs and sporting matches can reopen at full capacity after July 19 – more than 16 months after the initial lockdown last March.  

Nine events were piloted in total in April and May, including the FA Cup final in front of 21,000 fans at Wembley, a live audience of 4,000 at the Brit awards, a nightclub in Liverpool which hosted 3,000, as well as three 10km outdoor runs for 6,000 athletes and spectators. 

The trial was designed to see if Covid outbreaks could be avoided at mass events when the country was originally scheduled to unlock on June 21.

There were 28 cases of Covid at the nine pilots in total, of which 11 were thought to have caught the virus before the events. Only 17 were believed to have picked it up while there. 

Leicester supporters watched their side win the FA Cup in May in front of a crowd of 21,000 fans as part of nine trial events

There was a live audience of 4,000 at the Brit awards in the same month at the O2 Arena in London

There was a live audience of 4,000 at the Brit awards in the same month at the O2 Arena in London

People have non-socially distanced fun at a rave in Liverpool as part of the programme. Data published by local public health officials in Liverpool showed just 0.07 per cent of the more than 13,000 attendees across three events tested positive

People have non-socially distanced fun at a rave in Liverpool as part of the programme. Data published by local public health officials in Liverpool showed just 0.07 per cent of the more than 13,000 attendees across three events tested positive

More than 10,000 snooker fans attended Sheffield's Crucible Theatre and were required to wear masks but did not need to socially distance as part of another test event

More than 10,000 snooker fans attended Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre and were required to wear masks but did not need to socially distance as part of another test event 

There were 58,000 attendees involved in the Events Research Programme (ERP), commissioned by the Prime Minister in February. 

Despite just 0.02 per cent of attendees getting infected, the researchers said it was not ‘conclusive’ evidence that all mass events will be safe going forward. 

People who went to the events, which also included the World Snooker Championships, a cinema night and a marathon, were required to prove a negative lateral flow test (LFT). 

Attendees were also asked to take a voluntary PCR test – which is much more accurate – to help the programme’s research 

But only 15 per cent of the attendees complied, meaning some cases may have went undetected.

This made it ‘challenging to determine’ the full nature of Covid transmission at the different venues, the report said.

But the researchers were still confident, regardless of the testing shortcomings, that there were ‘no substantial outbreaks’ missed. 

They also noted that the pilots were limited because Covid levels were very low and the country was still in lockdown in April and May.   

In total, there were nine events across England where attendees did not have to socially distance and all that was required to get in was a negative test. This Mail graphic broke down the trial events in April. Note: A comedy club night in Liverpool was scrapped and the Brit Awards was organised later than the events mentioned above

In total, there were nine events across England where attendees did not have to socially distance and all that was required to get in was a negative test. This Mail graphic broke down the trial events in April. Note: A comedy club night in Liverpool was scrapped and the Brit Awards was organised later than the events mentioned above

WHAT EVENTS WERE TRIALLED? 

FA Cup Semi Final, Wembley Stadium

World Snooker Championship, Sheffield Crucible Theatre

Luna Cinema, Liverpool

League Cup Final

ACC Business Event, Liverpool

Circus Nightclub, Liverpool

FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium

The BRIT Awards, London

Outdoor gig, Sefton Park Liverpool

The report added: ‘Future public health measures need to adapt to the prevailing levels and patterns of the virus’. 

Indoor events – such as the Circus nightclub in Liverpool – were deemed the most risky with 10 positive tests,

Six cases were reported from 10,000 audience members at the World Snooker Championship over 17 days. No cases were reported from the Brit Awards.

Staggered entry and exit times, good ventilation and removing ‘choke points’ were three measures used to limit social contacts without the use of restrictive curbs.   

The report highlighted that higher risk areas include those which have an increased density of people for longer periods of time, for example half-time at a football match, and where ventilation is poorer. 

Such higher density puts ‘increased pressure on pinch points’, such as toilets. 

The report also warned that ‘large unstructured gatherings indoors’ where people mix in close proximity pose a higher risk.

It observed that compliance with requirements to socially distance and wear face masks – which was required at some but not all events – were ‘mostly high’, with lower face covering compliance associated with ‘higher attendance levels, circulation zones and exiting’.  

The report noted that the ERP will continue to gather evidence from further events in subsequent phases.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘Our innovative and science-led Events Research Programme is helping us to better understand how the risk of transmission at major events can be effectively mitigated.

‘The findings and learnings will help event organisers plan for large audiences as we move to Step 4 of the road map.’

Mr Hytner said: ‘These events are so important for our wellbeing, our sense of community and togetherness, and they have been sorely missed.

‘This programme has shown that through the public demonstrating their status we have been able to track the virus, creating a safer space for the public to get back to the events they love.

‘The findings from the first phase of this programme will help facilitate the return of what so many of us enjoy: attending exciting and top quality events throughout the country when it is safe to do so.’

Industry bosses rejoiced at the pilot’s findings, and said there was little evidence to keep live audiences away from events after July 19. 

Greg Parmley, chief executive of industry body LIVE, said: ‘We are pleased that the Government has finally published some of the ERP research but it is incredibly disappointing that it took the live music and the theatre industry launching legal action yesterday to force them to do so.

‘We will of course read the report with interest but we are pleased that there were no Covid outbreaks associated with any of the pilots detected, either by testing or by a general increase in community incidence.

‘It is also pleasing to see that the air quality of the indoor events was, in almost all cases, the same or better than being in an office for a short working day.

‘It is completely unfair that our industry finds itself stuck in seemingly-interminable rounds of research before we can open when no such research is being done for other places, such as restaurants, shops or public transport.

‘With sensible mitigations, including simple Covid-certification, there is no reason why we should not be able to reopen on July 19.’

Wembley will host more than 60,000 fans for Euros semi-final and final 

Wembley will host more than 60,000 fans for the final stages of the Euros after minister sealed a deal with Uefa despite concerns from Germany and Italy.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden hailed the agreement European football’s ruling body over coronavirus restrictions saying he is ‘thrilled’ the games can go ahead.

To allow 75 per cent capacity at Wembley all ticket holders will need to follow strict rules including testing negative or having proof of being double-jabbed.

The news comes despite the WHO voicing concern about increasing capacity for fans when cases are rising, and Angela Merkel saying she did not want to see ‘packed stadiums’ in the UK.

Downing Street has also dismissed a call from Italian PM Mario Draghi for the final to be moved to Rome.

‘We are looking forward to putting on a fantastic semi-final and final at Wembley and will do so safely and securely,’ a No10 spokesman said.

Uefa has been pushing for 2,500 VIPs to attend the final on July 11 without being subjected to the quarantine requirements that apply to other international travellers.

It is unclear what compromise has been reached on that point, although ministers had insisted some restrictions would remain in place.

The 90,000-seater stadium has been operating at a capacity of just 22,500 for the tournament group stages.

‘WHO is concerned about easing of restrictions in some of the host countries,’ said Robb Butler, an executive director at its Regional Office for Europe.

‘A few of the stadiums hosting the tournament are now increasing the number of spectators allowed into the stadium to watch a game.’

It is expected people who were stripped of tickets when the numbers were reduced will be first in line for the new allocation.

Reports had suggested the final could be shifted to Budapest if a deal could not be reached, with the Italians also pushing for their capital to be used.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk