Non-socially distanced mass events ARE safe, Government study finds

Non-socially distanced mass events ARE safe: Minister reveals there were no Covid outbreaks at pilots of sport, music and theatre events including the FA Cup final in front of 20,000 fans

  • Raised hopes festivals, nightclubs and sport matches can reopen fully on July 19
  • Culture minister Nigel Huddleston said there’d been no outbreaks at nine pilots
  • Critics say No10 not publishing data because it’d undermine lockdown delay

There were no coronavirus outbreaks at non-socially distanced mass events piloted in England, a Government minister confirmed today.

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. 

Culture minister Nigel Huddleston said the trial events, including the FA Cup final at Wembley and the Brit Awards, had not caused any clusters of infections.  

He told MPs in the House of Commons: ‘Although we are not yet in a position to publish the full report, I can assure the House that post-event data closely monitored have not shown any evidence of the events causing outbreaks.’  

Tens of thousands of Britons were given their first slice of freedom in more than a year at during the events in April and May. Attendees did not have to socially distance from strangers and all that was required to get in was a recent negative test. 

Nine events were piloted in total, 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.

Backbench Tories and Labour MPs today suggested No10 had concealed the ‘fantastically positive’ data because it did not jibe with its decision to delay lockdown. 

Data published by local public health officials in Liverpool – where four events were piloted – showed just 0.08 per cent of the more than 13,000 attendees tested positive.

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

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 200 snooker fans at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre were required to wear masks but did not need to socially distance as part of another test event 

Former Tory minister Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), told MPs: ‘I’m a little confused. Normally when the Government doesn’t publish something it’s normally because it’s bad news and it’s trying to hide it away.

‘I’ve got a very strong suspicion this set of data is fantastically positive. It must be ready for publication, because it must have been prepared for last week when step 4 was due to be announced so it must be ready to go.

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

‘My fear is it demonstrated the opposite of the decision the Prime Minister announced last week. 

‘It would have demonstrated that we could have safely opened on June 21. That’s the real reason why it hasn’t been published, so why doesn’t he publish it today and put our minds at rest?’

Labour also raised concerns about the lack of publicly-available data from the mass events and asked if the Government was keeping it ‘secret’.

Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: ‘I’m afraid there was nothing really in the minister’s response just now to explain the failure to publish the results. What’s the secret?

‘Why won’t the Government tell the public, tell the industry and tell us what the results are, because all of those who have spent time and money organising and hosting test events – and those relying on this programme – would like to see the results.’

Ms Stevens questioned if Downing Street had ‘blocked’ the release of the data last week ahead of the announcement that June 21 was being pushed back a month.  

Responding to the criticisms, Mr Huddleston said it was a ‘conspiracy theory’ to suggest that the Government purposefully concealed the data.

He added: ‘We have said already… that if there were major concerns we would have made sure that information was in the public arena that would have been the responsible thing to do.

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

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.

‘Some of the initial data points were already announced by the Secretary of State back in May but the report needs to be comprehensive, it needs to be reviewed by a large number of stakeholders in Government, we will be releasing it very soon indeed.’

He added: ‘We outlined when we announced the programme that we would release the report prior to step four (of the road map to unlock) and that’s exactly what we will be doing, we will be releasing the report very soon.’ 

Despite the Government holding off on publishing the results from the Events Research Programme (ERP), local public health officials have taken it upon themselves to release the data.

In Liverpool, where a concert, nightclub and business event were trialled, there were just 11 positive tests out of nearly 13,300 attendees (0.08 per cent).

Covid testing expert Professor Jon Deeks, from the University of Birmingham, who analysed the results, tweeted: ‘The bottom line is that the events were safe. Kudos to Liverpool PH [public health] Team.’

He added: ‘It is really great that Liverpudlians could get out and have a good time safely.’

But, taking a swipe at the Government, he added: ‘No official report from the Department of Health and Social Care as per normal. Seems important evidence is being delayed once again.’

It came as it emerged 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.

In a statement this afternoon, Mr Dowden said: ‘We are thrilled that more fans will now be able to walk through the Wembley turnstiles and enjoy the finals of EURO 2020.

‘As we continue to make progress on our roadmap out of lockdown, keeping the public safe remains our top priority. We have worked extremely closely with UEFA and the FA to ensure rigorous and tight public health measures are in place whilst allowing more fans to see the action live.

‘The finals promise to be an unforgettable moment in our national recovery from the pandemic.’

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said: ‘The last 18 months have taught us – both on and off the pitch – how integral fans are to the fabric of the game.

‘This tournament has been a beacon of hope to reassure people that we are returning to a more normal way of life and this is a further step along that road.’

Culture minister Baroness Barran said on Monday that VIPs or accredited guests would not be exempt from Government restrictions but instead only be able to leave isolation for official events, would be subject to testing and bubble arrangements, and a ‘very strict code of conduct’ would be in place.

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