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What happens next after nightclubs and concerts open to revellers for Covid experiment

Millions of Brits jealously watched on as clubbers finally returned to dancefloors and a concert with no social distancing over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Pictures and video from nightclubs in Liverpool on Friday and Saturday showed friends finally allowed to enjoy a night out for the first time in more than a year after large events were banned due to Covid restrictions.

Revellers packed in close together after being asked to pretend the virus didn’t exist for a blissful few hours – and last night 5,000 fans packed into Liverpool’s Sefton Park to see indie band Blossoms headline a specially-permitted concert.

Masks were ditched for the events so scientists could measure the impact on transmission.

It is all part of an experiment that experts hope will pave the way to large events returning from June after a bleak year for the events industry.

The Events Research Programme will also see 4,000 people attend the Brit Awards at London’s o2 Arena and 21,000 permitted inside Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup final on May 15.

Thousands of maskless clubbers got to enjoy a night out for the first time in a year this weekend
Thousands of maskless clubbers got to enjoy a night out for the first time in a year this weekend

What do people who attend events have to do?

In order to be let in, people need to have tested negative for Covid, and they were required to do a lateral flow test ahead of this weekend’s events.

The tests are carried out at a testing centre, as the government is measuring the role that these can play going forward.

Entry was denied to anyone who failed to provide proof of a negative test.

Revellers were also required to take a PCR test within five days of the event, so that transmission can be measured.

If data suggests that the events have led to a number of infections, this will inform decisions on how events are allowed to proceed in the months ahead.

People were only admitted after a negative Covid test
People were only admitted after a negative Covid test

A crowd of 5,000 got to enjoy an outdoor gig in Sefton Park, Liverpool, yesterday, as part of the research
A crowd of 5,000 got to enjoy an outdoor gig in Sefton Park, Liverpool, yesterday, as part of the research

What monitoring was happening during the events?

While thousands enjoyed themselves and danced the night away, scientists were busy watching what they were doing.

Carbon dioxide monitors were in place to detect “pockets of stale air” inside the venue.

There were also small cameras, which monitored people’s movements and how they interacted with each other.

These will be analysed to pinpoint any ways in which the virus might be able to spread when clubs fully reopen.

It is hoped this weekend's events can pave the way for concerts and nightclubs starting up again
It is hoped this weekend’s events can pave the way for concerts and nightclubs starting up again

Prof Iain Buchan, last week told BBC Newsbeat that the key was finding how to put measures in place while ensuring people still enjoy themselves.

“That’s a really important part of making these events sustainable,” he says.

What will happen with the data collected?

This will feed the decision making going into Stage 4 of Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown.

Members of an industry-led steering group co-chaired by Sir Nicholas Hytner and David Ross, working with public health authorities, will make recommendations to the Prime Minister.

A Joint Programme Board will be working on policies to reopen events ahead of June 21.

Music fans packed into Sefton Park in Liverpool to watch The Blossoms headline a concert yesterday
Music fans packed into Sefton Park in Liverpool to watch The Blossoms headline a concert yesterday

What other events are happening as part of the research?

The research programme began last month and is set to continue for several weeks as different types of events are evaluated.

They include football matches, indoor concerts and nightclubs and outdoor live music shows, as well as a business networking event.

Here is the list of events which have happened and are yet to take place:

  • 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

Football fans inside Wembley Stadium for the Carabao Cup Final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur
Football fans inside Wembley Stadium for the Carabao Cup Final between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur

What do the experts say?

Liverpool’s director of public health Matt Ashton told BBC Breakfast after the first club night in the city on Friday: “This is a scientific experiment, both before and after the event people have to return to doing the things they are supposed to, so following the rules in place.

“We have to deal with Covid still as if it is still around because it is, even if it is at low levels, so we have to be cautious in our approach. And for me that’s why it is so important that we collect the science around this to allow us to do this safely and properly in the future.

“But it is still wonderful to see the looks on people’s faces as they were at the event last night. It just gives a glimpse of what think we think the future might hold.”

Clubbers in Liverpool took Covid tests before this weekend's events
Clubbers in Liverpool took Covid tests before this weekend’s events

It is hoped the experiments can pave the way back to normality
It is hoped the experiments can pave the way back to normality

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said following last night’s concert: “Today is a momentous occasion to celebrate as fans get their first taste of a music festival for more than a year – and all in the name of science.

“There is nothing quite like the collective experience of hearing your favourite act live in the atmosphere of a festival and I hope everyone has a fantastic day.

“We’ve supported the live music sector through the pandemic with £250 million in grants from our Culture Recovery Fund going to more than 2,000 organisations.

“Now we want to get audiences back to the events they love and see the live music industry rebooted.

“Today’s event is a milestone with thousands of people coming together to test how we can kickstart things safely through the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).”



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