Theatre News

Theatres can safely open at capacity with audiences wearing face masks, UCL study suggests

The wearing of masks will reduce the transmission of aerosol droplets by 99 per cent

A picture of the test dummy used to trace the transmission of aerosols
A picture of the test dummy used to trace the transmission of aerosols

A major study at University College London has used laser technology to measure the impact of face coverings in helping to mitigate risks of Covid.

According to the results, the wearing of masks cuts the spread of aerosol droplets by 99 per cent, with those transmitted also travelling much more slowly.

Professor of biophotonics at UCL, Laurence Lovat, says: "Andrew Lloyd Webber is right. If theatre-goers wear appropriate masks and follow other rules already in place, theatres become safe places to go to.

"Across all the tests: singing, breathing and speaking, these results show face masks provide significant and robust levels of safety against Covid-19 transmission."

Lovat is referencing Andrew Lloyd Webber's recent statements that venues are incredibly safe when audiences are wearing masks and a large portion are vaccinated. Lloyd Webber's comments come following the research conducted at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield during the pilot events programme last month. The programme is said to have found four positive tests across thousands of attendees during a fortnight of live events with spectators often at higher capacities than those currently permitted. It is not stated if these positive tests were found before the live shows or afterwards.

A theatre animation
A theatre animation

Lovat explains: "We developed a unique methodology for understanding the spatiotemporal movement of droplets. Appropriate face coverings really rapidly reduce it.

"With our technology, we were able to build the engineering rig and androids ourselves. That allows us to expand up to test what really happens in theatres and big public spaces.

"We place the engineering rig inside the android to replicate a real head. We can change the frequency to make it speak and produce different types of droplets. There is a huge variation."

The next step in the government's roadmap to reopening is set for 21 June, with a statement from the Prime Minister set to confirm further plans or delays on Monday.

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