You Could Go To A Football Match Or Club In The Name Of Science

There will be a series of large pilot events that take place from April, the government has announced.
Would you volunteer to go to a busy nightclub in the name of science?
Robert Daly
Would you volunteer to go to a busy nightclub in the name of science?

People could soon be able to attend football matches, theatre performances and weddings as part of a series of trials to see how safe it is to reopen them.

In step 3 of the government’s ‘roadmap to recovery’ in England, some large events – like conferences, theatre and concert performances, and sports events – will be permitted. However, in addition to this, pilots will run as part of an Events Research Programme to examine how larger events can take place without the need for social distancing, using other mitigations such as testing.

The full reopening of nightclubs and theatres, as well as removal of limits on weddings and other major celebrations, will be subject to the outcome of the trials – so a lot hangs in the balance. Here’s what you need to know.

What does the study involve?

From April, the government will run its scientific Events Research Programme, detailed in the 68-page roadmap. “This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes,” it states.

There will be at least 10 pilot events that take place, reports The Times, where volunteers will be invited to attend busy venues such as a full capacity football match, crowded conference centre, or nightclub. Scientists will then assess the risks of transmission.

Why are they running it?

Historically, crowded indoor venues have fuelled super-spreader events – where large numbers of people have become sick with Covid-19.

Researchers and the government want to know what measures can help reduce transmission in these settings. They will look at how air conditioning and extra ventilation helps, for example, or whether testing on arrival can keep transmission down. Details on the stringent testing methods will be confirmed at a later date, nearer to when the events take place.

The ultimate aim is to be able to implement measures that don’t involve everyone keeping two-metres apart at such events.

What events will be part of study?

It’s thought the pilots will include sports events, theatre performances, music festivals, large weddings and conferences.

These are the events set out in the roadmap to recovery, where the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are liaising with industry leaders on how to return staff and customers to these venues safely.

Can people apply to volunteer for the trials?

No information has been given on the specifics of the trials – and whether people can sign up to them – right now. But all the pilots will be run as scientific trials with protocols and ethics approvals, The Times reports.

When will we know the results?

Results from the pilots will be shared with ministers before the final easing of restrictions in England, which is set to take place no earlier than June 21.

The government states it will “bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions” on these events. “Depending on the outcome of this work, the government hopes to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of step 4,” it says.

HuffPost UK contacted the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for more information on the trials but they had nothing further to share at this stage.