Crowds enjoying the Sefton Park music festival ©Liverpool City Council
Liverpool Public Health officials and scientists have found the city’s pilot events did not cause any detectable spread of Covid-19 across the region.
The city hosted four hugely successful events as part of the national Events Research Programme (ERP), with a total of 13,258 people attending The Good Business Festival, two nightclub events hosted by Circus and the Sefton Park Pilot music festival.
All attendees were required to take a lateral flow test ahead of the event – a negative test would allow them access. Five people with the Covid-19 virus were identified through this process and were told not to attend.
Ticketholders were encouraged to take a PCR test on the day of the event, and a second one five days later.
This process identified four people as possibly having the virus at an event; and a further seven people were identified with the virus four to seven days after they attended and event. Of those who tested positive – two attended the music festival, nine attended the nightclub and none attended the business festival. Many of the cases were friends who meet outside of events and may not have been infected at an event itself.
Everyone who tested positive was successfully followed up by the contact tracing team. Scientists found the testing, data and contact tracing systems worked well, with key information being available to public health teams before the events which allowed contacts of potential cases to be traced quickly.
The research team also found that between 25 per cent and 43 per cent of people returned a PCR test after the event, with the Sefton Park Pilot festival seeing three times the number of the other Liverpool pilots due to the incentive of winning tickets to future gigs.
Every Covid-19 test result for the 2.6m population of Cheshire and Merseyside was examined before and after the events, with 96 per cent of tickets linked to test results. The results showed there was no evidence of any substantial spread of the virus around the pilot events.
Covid-19 infections remain low in Liverpool and the pattern of variants is being watched carefully.
The public health and science teams are cautiously optimistic that events can reopen reasonably safely with effective testing in place, and anyone feeling unwell should not attend.
Wearing face coverings or maintaining social distancing were not required at any of Liverpool’s pilot events.
Liverpool’s test events were:
- Wednesday 28 April – The Good Business Festival
- Friday 30 April – Circus nightclub
- Saturday 1 May – Circus nightclub
- Sunday 2 May – Sefton Park Pilot music festival
Professor Iain Buchan, Dean of the Institute of Population Health at the University of Liverpool, said: “The Events Research Programme in Liverpool demonstrated the importance of close working between events organisers, local public health teams and eventgoers in delivering the Covid safety net needed to make events as safe as possible over the coming months.
“Timely data and quick action to trace and test contacts of people testing positive, both before and after events, was key to containing potential outbreaks – a job that teams at Liverpool City Council did extremely well.
“We identified room for improvements such as ensuring people do not attend if they feel even slightly unwell – not just those with classic symptoms of Covid-19; maximising ventilation even in large indoor spaces; incentives to return PCR tests for research purposes; and automating the issue of tickets only after an assured negative test in the day running up to the event.
“There is more to learn from improved Covid-safety measures as we welcome events back, and Liverpool will keep producing the evidence needed to secure enjoyment of events for us all.”
Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, Matt Ashton, said: “Liverpool’s involvement in the ERP is undoubtedly a success story, providing us with vital learning which will shape how this sector safely reopens.
“The significance of the city’s role in this pilot shouldn’t be underestimated – the eyes of the world were on us for days as we made pioneering strides to bring people back together to share and experience events without any Covid restrictions in place.
“Working in partnership with the University of Liverpool and with promoters, we have developed Covid-safe protocols which will now be shared to help inform the wider sector.
“I’m proud of our role in this project and we look forward to seeing how our findings shape national policy.”
Director of Culture Liverpool, Claire McColgan, said: “The pandemic has been devastating for the events sector, so we’re delighted we have shown that with certain measures in place, people can dance, sing, hug, laugh together, in a crowd, safely.
“Bringing together the medical and event worlds posed challenges that no promoter, event organiser, university, government department or local authority have ever faced before, and it’s thanks to the incredible team in this city that we have these findings today.
“Public Health Liverpool, the University of Liverpool, our events team, the brilliant promoters and the people of this city have embraced this programme, worked tirelessly together and, as a result, made a real difference to those whose lives are sustained by the industry, and those whose lives are enriched by it.
“I want to say thank you to everyone involved. Your hard work paid off and you have given hope to this sector which will reap the benefits of our experience.”