Festivals prove biggest Covid risk in Events Research Programme

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Festivals had the largest risk of Covid-19 transmission among attendees that took part in the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).

The newly-published Phase II and III findings show little evidence for increased transmission by attendance at the indoor theatre events or outdoor seated events studied.

However, attendance at the mainly outdoor unseated events studied, including Latitude and Tramlines festivals, was associated with a 1.7 fold increased risk of Covid-19 transmission among attendees.

The study notes that numerous factors were likely to have contributed to the higher transmission risk at these events, including high rates of unvaccinated attendees, community prevalence at the time of the events studied, the structure of the events and the behaviour of attendees leading up to and after attending these events.

The indoor seated events at the Piccadilly Theatre, Leeds Grand and The Grange saw a 1.2 fold increased risk of transmission, while the outdoor seated events, which included events at Silverstone, Wimbledon and Grosvenor Park, saw a 1.1 fold increased risk of transmission.

The programme of research has been instrumental in the reopening of the live events sector, allowing audiences across the country to get back to attending live events safely.

Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston said: “The Events Research Programme broke new ground on the size and scale of scientific research undertaken at live events and has undoubtedly contributed to the early reopening of our crucial business, sporting and cultural events sectors.

“The programme has provided an important template for event organisers the world over to continue to be able to plan their events safely and that’s great credit to the scientists behind this world-leading study.”

Professor Dame Theresa Marteau, chair of the Events Research Programme Science Board, said: “It has been a pleasure to lead the Science Board that has overseen this large-scale science-led programme researching the risk of transmission from attending live events to help people get back to doing the things they love.

“We have gathered large amounts of data that can be used by the scientific community worldwide, event organisers and government for the best understanding to date of the risk of transmitting coronavirus at live events and how we can best keep this risk low.”

The Events Research Programme ran for four months, encompassing 31 pilots and welcoming back over two million people to the live events sector.

Running over three complete phases, the ERP studied audience behaviour, ventilation, certification and the use of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) such as face masks and social distancing to examine how the risk of Covid-19 transmission could be reduced and audiences returned safely.

Over 750 temporary cameras captured thousands of hours of footage, alongside the extensive monitoring of CO2 in 179 individual spaces using 370 monitors all deployed in one of the largest evidence gathering programmes ever seen in the live events sector.

Scientists and researchers have developed a large body of publicly-available evidence on transmission at large events, contributing to the development and implementation of Government policy on the reopening and running of live events in a Covid-secure way.

Paul Harvey
Written By
Paul Harvey
M&IT editor Paul Harvey is a journalist with more than 15 years of experience. He began his career in the local press, working for various titles across the north. Since joining M&IT in 2013, he has become a trusted and respected voice in the sector, championing event professionals and reporting on all aspects of the events industry for the brand.

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