The next stage of the government’s long and arduous attempt to free England from lockdown will begin tomorrow.
A string of venues will open – often for one night only – as part of an ‘Events Research Programme’ to see how they could be run in future.
They will use things like modified social distancing, ventilation and rapid Covid testing on entry to trial the return of larger crowds.
The government will then review the results and make recommendations for how venues might reopen more widely later this summer.
Crucially, these pilots could help pave the way for a future “certification” programme, also known as vaccine passports or testing passports.
Such a system would see Brits show their vaccine status, or evidence they’ve had Covid, or evidence of a recent negative test to get into a ticketed venue like a big gig or sports match.
While the existence or format of such a system hasn’t been decided yet, the NHS has looked at repurposing its Covid-19 app to let people show their status.
It’s already proven controversial.
The first event was meant to be yesterday, but Liverpool’s Hot Water Comedy Club pulled out after claiming it had received 4,000 hate messages.
People had messaged the venue angry that it had been linked to “vaccine passports”.
In fact, the events research programme will not ask people to show their vaccine status – although they could be asked to take a test before going in.
Without this research programme, events will be able to restart from May 17 anyway – but there will be strict limits.
Under the planned rules in England, outdoor events can have 1,000 people or be half full (whichever is smaller).
Outdoors, capacity of 4,000 people will be allowed, or half full, again whichever is smaller. In the biggest stadiums it’s up to 10,000 or a quarter full.
The idea of the research programme is to find ways to relax these limits, be it through “certification” or another method.
Officials hope to be able to welcome 20,000 fans to the FA Cup Final at Wembley on May 15 at the climax of the programme.
So what events will be part of the programme and when will they be held? Here’s the full list.
The government adds this disclaimer: “All events will be subject to national and local approvals. Further events may be announced in due course.”
- FA Cup Semi Final, Wembley Stadium (18 April)
- World Snooker Championship, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (17 April – 3 May)
- Luna Cinema, Liverpool (23-25 April)
- Mass participation run, Hatfield House, Hatfield (24-25 April)
- Carabao Cup Final, Wembley Stadium (25 April)
- ACC Business Event, Liverpool (28 April)
- Circus Nightclub, Liverpool (30 April – 1 May)
- FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium (15 May)