Covid Test Event Findings

The Event Industry Forum’s Jim Winship summarises the Events Research Programme report published on 25 June.

The First Dance, one of the pilot events at Liverpool's Bramley-Moore Docks
The First Dance, one of the pilot events at Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Docks

The government has published the report for Phase 1 of the Events Research Programme (ERP) which set out to investigate how events with larger crowd sizes could return without social distancing, while limiting the transmission of Covid-19. Additional ERP events continue to gather further evidence and, as yet, no decisions have been taken on the full reopening of mass events. The government will set out its position on this ahead of Step 4 on its roadmap.

The first phase of the ERP ran from 17 April-15 May and consisted of nine pilots:
• 17 April-3 May: World Snooker Championships (10,150 participants)
• 18 April: FA Cup Semi Final (2,800 participants)
• 25 April: Carabao Cup Final (7,800 participants)
• 28 April: ACC Business Event, Liverpool (150 participants)
• 30 April- 1May: Circus Nightclub (3,100 and 3,900 participants)
• 2 May: Sefton Park Concert (6,100 participants)
• 11 May: The BRITS (3,500 participants)
• 15 May: FA Cup Final (21,000 participants)
• 15 May: Reunion 5K Run (2,000 participants).

Events ran in variety of indoor and outdoor settings, with seated, standing, structured and unstructured audience styles and a range of participant numbers. The ERP will continue to run pilots as part of Phase 2 and 3 of the research programme.


Testing rates and results for Phase 1 pilots

Test chart
Index cases are those detected in pre-event PCR tests and therefore infection is assumed to have taken place before the event. Secondary cases associated with events are inferred or ‘putative’ to date as it is difficult to ascertain exactly where transmission occurred, at the event or in other activities being carried by that individual. Table entries marked with a * were collected through Liverpool’s enhanced public health data systems.


Key observations:
• Outdoor spaces are generally lower risk than indoor spaces. However, all venues are different and may have indoor spaces such as toilets, food/drink concessions and corridors which can pose higher risks
• 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
• Mitigations such as face coverings, ventilation, testing, restrictions on food and drink, and social distancing/capacity caps all contributed to reducing transmission risk
• Compliance with social distancing, face covering and testing requirements was generally high across all events where they were required, particularly in indoor environments (98.3%) in comparison to events conducted outdoors or with a substantial open air element (92.1%)
• Pre-event lateral flow testing, questionnaire-based screening and consent to link event booking and test result data, as conditions of admittance to events, were accepted by audiences for most types of events and helped public health teams to respond to any potential outbreaks
• Low uptake of PCR testing before and after events meant evidence of direct transmission at events was challenging to determine.

Attendee attitudes
Evidence from ONS’ Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (survey of 3,810 adults in Great Britain, 28 April-3 May 2021) suggests the following mitigations will have an effect on event attendance:
• Covid-19 pre-event testing: 15% more likely to attend an event
• Social distancing (1m+): 2% less likely to attend an event
• Face coverings required (2hrs): 28% less likely to attend an event
• No food/drink allowed at the event: 43% less likely to attend
• 2-hour delay to enter and exit: 62% less likely to attend an event
• Vaccinated people say they are more likely to attend events with pre-event testing than non-vaccinated people
• People belonging to an ethnic minority or those aged 16-29 are 8% more likely to attend an event if it has social distancing mitigations in place
• The availability of food and drink is more important to those in the 16-29 and 30-49 age groups when considering their likelihood of attending an event
• Men are also less likely than women to attend an event where face coverings are required for more than two hours.

The full ERP report goes into detail on behaviour, movement, ventilation and testing and has shown that with mitigating factors, such as social distancing at pinch points, face coverings and staggered entry and exit times, events can be conducted more safely at increased capacities while maintaining a low risk of Covid-19 transmission. Based on findings from Phase 1, the government will update existing guidance, including organised events guidance. The guidance will be applicable to any organised event or gathering of any size, both indoors and outdoors.


Response from NOEA
The National Outdoor Events Association has responded to the report, saying: “Despite the initial delay, we are extremely pleased to see that the Phase 1 Events Research Programme report is now published. However, it is clear that further results from Phases 2 and 3 are wanted by the government in order to open up our sector.

This again means more delay for the outdoor events sector during our most important peak time of the year, which is hugely frustrating for our members. It seems, without clear government guidance, which has still to be produced, and the lack of insurance, time really is running out for our sector and the many hundreds of businesses within it.”


More information
Read the full report at:

Read the Events Industry Forum Guidance (including weddings) on keeping audiences and workers safe at:

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