University to evaluate pilot events programme in Liverpool

Research by the University of Liverpool is set to help inform how venues – from major sport stadiums to comedy clubs, theatres to live music spaces, wedding venues to conference centres – could operate this summer.

The Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP) will be used to provide key scientific data into how events for a range of audiences could be permitted to safely reopen as part of Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown, commencing no earlier than June 21.

Liverpool is to host four events as part of the national pilot, with the University leading independent evaluation of the public health measures to secure the city’s events.

The Government is working closely with the University and Liverpool City Council on the project, which follows on from the city’s successful pilot Covid-19 testing programme for people without symptoms held last November.

The Liverpool pilots – a comedy gig, an outdoor cinema, a club night and a business event – will gather evidence associated with different settings and approaches to managing and mitigating transmission risk.

The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation, including the use of lateral flow tests – but not so-called ‘vaccine passports’.

The research programme, which is being overseen by the Government’s ERP Science Board, aims to:

  • develop and pilot the logistics of event ticketing and testing, venue admittance and post-event follow-up
  • Assess the adequacy of data collected around events and venues for responding to potential outbreaks, and for adapting protection measures according to the background levels and patterns of spread of the virus
  • Measure the uptake of tickets and explore attitudes to, and acceptability of the overall ticketing, questioning and testing regime

Venues participating in the programme will test specific settings to collect evidence and best practice, with the final decision over whether each event can take place being made by local officials.

The evidence from the events will be shared across the event economy nationwide, so that venues can prepare to accommodate fuller audiences.

Decisions of the ticketing arrangements will be announced in the near future, at which point people from across the Liverpool City Region will be able to apply.

Professor Iain Buchan, Executive Dean of the Institute of Population Health at the University of Liverpool, said: Liverpool is uniquely placed to research safer reopening of events with the right mix of public health research and services and a remarkable community spirit for helping society recover from COVID-19, with care and togetherness.

“This work will follow in the footsteps of a successful pilot of community testing for people without symptoms of COVID-19, which is an increasingly important tool, among other public health measures, for resisting and recovering from the pandemic in many parts of the world.

“Events are an important part of the wellbeing, social fabric and economies of communities, and stopping them creates harms as well as COVID-19.

“Testing, questioning about symptoms, good ventilation, using outdoor venues where possible, being careful on public transport and continued attention to hands-face-space as much as possible are all important parts of securing the reopening of events. Liverpool will take a first step in researching how these measures can work over the coming months.”

Matthew Ashton, Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, added: “Our experience as the pilot city for mass testing means we have the knowledge and infrastructure in place to deliver complicated projects safely.

“We really hope we can help provide the scientific evidence needed to ensure the wider sector is able to open across the country in the coming months.

“This is a continuation of the city’s long-standing tradition of carrying out pioneering public health work that not only has an impact here, but also across the rest of the country and the wider world.”