Theatre News

Government publishes pilot events data following legal challenge from producers

The 42-page document was unveiled today

A full auditorium
A full auditorium

The controversial data from the Events Research Programme, subject of legal action earlier this week initiated by leading stage and music producers, has been published.

The 42-page document has a series of key scientific observations taken during the series of test events, including football matches, Snooker championships and more.

The observations range from the obvious (outdoor venues are lower risk than indoor venues) to the revelation that CO2 levels in indoor venues are comparable with those of schools or offices. As the report states: "nearly all CO2 levels recorded at the pilot events were within the bounds of reasonable ventilation benchmark" – the exception being at the front of the stage at a nightclub – which was described as "a cause for concern". Nevertheless, the report concludes there were 'no substantial outbreaks identified by public health teams."

One of the key takeaways is that: "a person attending an event experiences a lower level of cumulative exposure (CO2 levels above outdoor readings multiplied by exposure time) than attending a well-ventilated multi-person office for 6
hours". The report admits this statement may not hold true when events are at a higher capacity.

Furthermore, "even with higher crowd densities CO2 levels remained within CIBSE COVID-19 guidelines in seated spectator areas at both the Crucible Theatre and the O2", though naturally the amount of CO2 would still be higher with a higher number of attendees. This would lend greater weight to calls to open venues at higher capacity. Furthermore, the report suggests that increased audience size can increase transmission risk, but only on surfaces where spectators regularly touch.

The programme found one case associated with the entire Snooker World Championship, with five possible secondary cases for the entire 17-day programme. Zero cases were associates with either the Brit Awards or FA Cup Semi-Final.

According to the report, toilets, food/drink concessions and corridors can pose higher risks, while events that are "unstructured" (eg nightclubs) also have a higher risk than those with structure (eg seated events). One example was a spike in CO2 levels at an outdoor football match when, during half time and before the match, individuals went to buy food or went to the toilet.

According to the report, "mitigation options include: communications, crowd and audience management strategies, face coverings, ventilation, testing, restrictions on food and drink, and social distancing/capacity caps."

The use of Covid status certification (such as vaccine passports) is not included in this report – with further information set to be revealed soon.

The report admits that the pilot events were "insufficient in scale, scope and study designs to generate any direct evidence based on transmission data" – which may lead to wrinkled brows: if the pilots were not sufficiently able to gauge degree of transmission, perhaps more events could have been held.

However, the report states that there was a total of 28 positive cases from 58,000 individuals, with 11 identified as potentially infectious at an event, with a further 17 being potentially caused by the events.