Just 28 cases of Covid-19 were detected from nine large-scale pilot events, involving a total of 58,000 people, that were held as part of a government analysis examining the feasibility of reopening society.
Scientists behind the Events Research Programme (ERP), which was commissioned by the prime minister in February 2021 to help shape the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, described the findings as “reassuring” but warned the case numbers must be treated with “extreme caution” given the low number of people who tested themselves after the events.
They acknowledged that the low uptake of PCR testing before and after the nine different events meant it was “challenging to determine” the nature of Covid transmission, but insisted that “no substantial outbreaks” emerged in the aftermath of the events.
The ERP is designed to explore how the reopening of mass events can be conducted safely, with and without social distancing or mask wearing, while limiting the transmission of Covid-19 as much as possible.
It drew its results from nine pilots held in the UK between 17 April and 15 May, including the FA Cup Final, the Brit Awards and World Snooker Championships, and involved a total of 58,000 participants, who were required to prove a negative lateral flow test (LFT) as a condition of entry to each venue.
All attendees were also asked to take a voluntary pre- and post-event PCR test to aid the programme’s research, but just 15 per cent of people complied with this, raising the possibly that some individuals may been infectious or infected at the time of the event without detection due to inaccuracy of the LFTs.
The report confirms that 28 cases of Covid-19 were recorded from all available data during the ERP’s first nine events. Eleven of these cases were identified as potentially infectious during the event, and a further 17 were deemed to have picked up the virus at and around the time of the event.
Professor Iain Buchan, who was involved in the research, said that the cases were swiftly dealt with by local health authorities and that none led to any major outbreaks.
Indoor events including Circus nightclub in Liverpool, which hosted nearly 7,000 people over two nights, saw 10 cases recorded. Six cases were reported from 10,000 people who attended the World Snooker Championship over 17 days. And no cases were reported from the Brit Awards, which involved 3,500 participants.
The report also concluded that events with high crowd density and proximity could potentially pose a greater transmission. It also highlighted potential ‘pinch points’ at events, such as toilets or concession stands, where people may congregate for extended periods.
A second phase of pilot events has also been completed, with data set to be drawn and analysed from the likes of the group stage Euro 2020 matches hosted at Wembley Stadium, the Download Pilot music festival in Leicestershire and Royal Ascot, which have all taken place across the past month.
More to follow