Covid certificates won’t be required in live event pilot, organisers say

Maya Wolfe-RobinsonSun, 4 April 2021, 4:17 pm

Venues taking part in a pilot for Covid-safe live events in England have rejected the suggestion they are involved in a trial for Covid certificates, with one saying it has received a “massive backlash” following a government announcement.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced on Sunday that a series of mass gatherings and indoor events planned in April and May would take part in a trial to assess how venues might operate safely this summer. It said “Covid status certification” would be trialled as part of the programme.However, organisers of five of the nine events listed as part of the pilot programme said they would not require people to show certificates, with one saying they had received abuse since the announcement. The introduction of Covid identity documents has been opposed by civil liberties groups and more than 70 MPs, including 40 Tory backbenchers.

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A spokesperson for Liverpool city council – which is organising a comedy gig, an outdoor cinema, a business conference and a club night as part of the pilot – said the government briefing was incorrect, while a spokesperson for the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield also said the event would require testing for fans but not so-called vaccine passports.

DCMS confirmed that the initial venues announced would only require audience members to have a negative test to secure entry but that a certification scheme was being discussed for use at later events, such as the FA Cup semi-final. The system would use vaccination status, a recent negative Covid test result or “natural immunity”, meaning a person has tested positive in the previous six months.

(March 8, 2021)  Step 1, part 1

In effect from 8 March, all pupils and college students returned fully. Care home residents can receive one regular, named visitor. 

(March 29, 2021)  Step 1, part 2

In effect from 29 March, outdoor gatherings allowed of up to six people, or two households if this is larger, not just in parks but also gardens. Outdoor sport for children and adults allowed. The official stay at home order ends, but people will be encouraged to stay local. People will still be asked to work from home where possible, with no overseas travel allowed beyond the current small number of exceptions.

(April 12, 2021)  Step 2

The official outline plan states that the next steps will rely on data, and the dates given mean “no earlier than”. In step two, there will be a reopening of non-essential retail, hair and nail salons, and public buildings such as libraries and museums. Most outdoor venues can open, including pubs and restaurants but only for outdoor tables and beer gardens. Customers will have to be seated but there will be no need to have a meal with alcohol.

Also reopening will be settings such as zoos and theme parks. However, social contact rules will apply here, so no indoor mixing between households and limits on outdoor mixing. Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms and pools can also open but again people can only go alone or with their own household. Reopening of holiday lets with no shared facilities, but only for one household. Funerals can have up to 30 attendees, while weddings, receptions and wakes can have 15.

(May 17, 2021)  Step 3

Again with the caveat “no earlier than 17 May”, depending on data, vaccination levels and current transmission rates.

Step 3 entails that most mixing rules are lifted outdoors, with a limit of 30 people meeting in parks or gardens. Indoor mixing will be allowed, up to six people or, if it is more people, two households. Indoor venues such as the inside of pubs and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs, play centres, cinemas and group exercise classes will reopen. The new indoor and outdoor mixing limits will remain for pubs and other hospitality venues.

For sport, indoor venues can have up to 1,000 spectators or half capacity, whichever is lower; outdoors the limit will be 4,000 people or half capacity, whichever is lower. Very large outdoor seated venues, such as big football stadiums, where crowds can be spread out, will have a limit of 10,000 people, or a quarter full, whichever is fewer. Weddings will be allowed a limit of 30 people, with other events such as christenings and barmitzvahs also permitted.

This will be the earliest date at which international holidays could resume, subject to a separate review.

(June 21, 2021)  Step 4

No earlier than 21 June, all legal limits will be removed on mixing, and the last sectors to remain closed, such as nightclubs, will reopen. Large events can take place.

Peter Walker Political correspondent

Paul Blair, a co-owner of the Liverpool-based Hot Water Comedy Club, said it had faced a backlash after several Sunday newspapers reported that it would be involved in the certificate trials.

Blair, who is organising a comedy night planned for the 16 April, said the club was not and would never be part of the programme. He said the venue had received abuse on social media and emails from people accusing it of being part of a “medical apartheid” and saying they hoped the venues owners’ would “catch Covid and die”.

The comedy promoter said he was excited to be part of the pilot scheme, which he hoped would show that indoor events could be safe, but he was surprised to see headlines linking the events trial to vaccine passports. “I’m trying to put out fires, even though we didn’t start them,” he said.

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A spokesperson for Liverpool city council, which trialled mass community testing for people without symptoms in November, said on Sunday: “The line which was briefed out yesterday by the government about Liverpool’s events being included in the vaccine passports trials is incorrect – none of our events in Liverpool will involve them.”

The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation, including the use of lateral flow tests – but there will be no use of so-called vaccine passports, the spokesperson said.

Related: Boris Johnson to give go-ahead for trials of Covid passports

Prof Iain Buchan, the executive dean at the Institute of Population Health at the University of Liverpool, who is assisting with the scheme, said that “none of the advanced research programme is using vaccination status at all”. He said the pilot in the city was focused on researching transmission at events in the hope of reducing it to “an infinitesimally small risk”, and vaccination status was not a sound evidence base.

A DCMS press release that listed the events planned as part of the events research programme, with audiences of up to 1,000 people in indoor venues and 21,000 seated outdoors, had said that “Covid-status certification will be trialled as part of the pilot programme”. It is understood that plans for the scheme are still in discussion.

Boris Johnson is expected on Monday to set out further details of the plans to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown restrictions ease in England.

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