Return of Events: Latest Advice

At massive in 2020 we worked with all our clients to develop reliable and practical COVID mitigation procedures and utilise those to provide COVID secure events.  From safely returning fans to racing for Formula 1, to successfully delivering multiple socially distanced Trek26 events for Alzheimer’s Society, our breadth of experience operating within a COVID environment has enabled us to create a methodology for charities to bring back  events  safely in 2021 as lockdown restrictions begin to lift across the nations of the UK. 

2021 is set to be an exciting year for the industry, with events able to return and participants keen to get back outdoors and support the causes they have missed over the last year.  Whilst this is a hugely positive step for all of us in the events world, we know that with the first half of the year out of action, late summer and autumn will see a congested calendar.  Demand for dates, venues and space will be high and naturally there will be some overlap so we wanted to share with you the latest guidance and advice to help ensure all live events can thrive in 2021.

On 22nd February Boris Johnson set out the Roadmap out of lockdown, with a webinar produced by Symphotech pitched at the events world.  This walks us through the four tests for re-opening; the dates and the implications of those; the reviews the government will consider; and looks in depth at vaccine rollout and what that means for us all, and crucially our workforce.

To help us get ready for restart and to work safely during the pandemic we have the latest EIF guidance for England. A key point within that is the need to keep “as many people as possible socially distanced”. There are many events selling right now that are being open about the need for social distancing controls to be removed or significantly relaxed for them to be able to operate later this year: whilst changes may come, they are not here yet, as this latest guidance states.

A further raft of guidance is starting to appear across sport, conferences and the performing arts with updates expected for all 2021 plans from the likes of UKA & RunBritain and the British Triathlon Association for mass sport, and the AEO’s All Secure Standard for indoor conferences and meetings.

It seems clear now that outdoors is safer, as discussed by an independent report commissioned by parkrun. The report stated that “Professor Beggs ran a computer model through 10,000 simulations of an average 263-person parkrun event, using worst-reasonable-case estimates for number and duration of human contacts, which resulted in only 0.015% of runners potentially acquiring a COVID-19 infection”.

For those of us working to deliver these events safely, as well as getting procedures in place for participants and spectators, it is essential we consider safe working practices for our staff and volunteers.  The most appropriate procedures will vary depending on the style, location and length of events, and a COVID-specific risk assessments will remain crucial to this process and to developing the most suitable solution.  At massive we have used health screening, testing rotas and bubble working in different scenarios to successfully manage events from single day treks with 15 staff, to month long contracts with hundreds of staff on site.

Working internationally this year we have seen a variety of mitigation policies being introduced.  Whilst working on the Bahrain Formula 1 GP we were involved in delivering an event which required all spectators to have had a COVID vaccine.  Even with this in place, the event was still operated with full COVID mitigation in place.  The vaccine was treated as an additional layer of mitigation, working in conjunction with social distancing, mask use and sanitisation to reduce as much as possible of risks to all attendees including spectators and staff.  Looking ahead, it is unclear currently whether evidence of vaccination is a mitigation we could, or should, see being introduced as a condition of entry to events in the UK.  Regardless, it’s unlikely that we will see social distancing, mask use and increased sanitisation being reduced at events in the near future.

We’ve seen evidence from test events on the European mainland in Barcelona, Dortmund and Amsterdam all designed to show that indoor events can be held safely.  As announced by the government, an Events Research Programme of pilot events is now planned for England, using testing and other measures to help inform the debate on when restrictions can be lifted. These will run between 16th April and 15th May and include the FA Cup semi-final and final, a LUNA outdoor cinema and three 10k runs in Hatfield Park of up to 3000 participants and 3000 spectators. Hopefully the variety of venues, styles of event and differing participant numbers will allow for a robust testing of procedures that can provide the industry with confidence when aiming to move forwards from the 17th May. 

As a wider category of events are now beginning to return from 12th April in England, following the ongoing roadmap for organised events more learnings will be shared within the industry and best practice sharpened as we move forwards to the next step no earlier than the 17th May.  This can only serve to help event organisers, charities and crucially participants and fans in moving towards the vibrant events calendar we all want to see return in a safe, COVID secure environment.

Through our work in 2020 and 2021 massive are expertly placed to advise on safely returning the public to events.  If you are looking for some support or advice on the latest guidelines and how they might apply to your project then please don’t hesitate to get in touch and the team will be happy to help.

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