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Large events with COVID-tested audiences no riskier than shopping, preliminary trial results show

The risk of coronavirus transmission at maskless events was found to be significantly reduced by improved ventilation and pre-event testing 

Large events with COVID-tested audiences are no riskier than shopping, according to the preliminary results of UK trials conducted at test events throughout the past month.

The report suggests that the risk of coronavirus transmission at maskless events is equal to visiting the high street or dining out, providing adequate ventilation and testing is in place. 

The findings, first reported by The Times, follow a series of large gathering tests in England throughout this month, including the BRIT Awards, the FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium and two 3000-capacity club events. Attendees at these events were required to take a lateral flow test 24-hours beforehand, present their negative test on arrival, and to take a follow up PCR test five days after.

A government source told the Times: “We are still waiting for the final bits of data but the results so far have been very encouraging...It will help make the case that these large events are not inherently more risky than other parts of the hospitality sector. It shows that there are things that you can do to make these settings as safe as other daily activities.

“It is true that they are not going to be 100 per cent safe but you can lower the risk to a reasonable level."

The news will be welcomed by many in the hospitality and events sectors, and potentially increase the likelihood of 'Covid-status certification' being used to help events return safely this summer. Local lockdowns, similar to the tier system introduced in 2020, have not been ruled out, despite widespread criticism that these could lead to regional inequality. 

The UK was 'on target' to remove all pandemic restrictions by 21st June, according to a statement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month. However, concerns about this fourth and final stage of lockdown easing have increased significantly in recent weeks amid rising cases of the B.1.617.2 COVID-19 variant. First identified in India and found in a number of areas in England, doctors believe this could be up to 50% more transmissible than the current dominant form of the virus in the UK. 

Several experts, including members of SAGE — the UK Government's advisory committee on health and science policy — and the British Medical Journal, have expressed apprehension over next month's goal, citing the emergence of a more infectious strain and issues with mass and surge testing as major factors that need to be considered. 

DJ Mag went behind the scenes at the UK Government's first COVID trial club event at Bramley-Moore Dock in Liverpool. Watch our mini-doc here.