Data shows mass events ‘can be held safely’ in UK amid COVID-19

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Mass events, including concerts, “can be conducted safely” despite COVID-19, data from a UK government pilot scheme has shown.

It monitored COVID-19 infections following 37 trial events held over four months, including the British Grand Prix, Wimbledon and EURO 2020 football matches.

The government said the data showed that “mass participation events can be conducted safely, but caution must still be taken around specific aspects of event participation”.

The National Health Service’s (NHS) Test and Trace app recorded 585 new cases at the time of the British Grand Prix, the largest crowd event in the UK over the previous 18 months with 350,000 in attendance over three days.

According to the data, 343 of those cases were likely to have already been infectious around the time of the event, while 242 cases were from people likely to have acquired an infection around the time of the event.

Some 881 new cases were meanwhile recorded during the Wimbledon tennis open, which hosted about 300,000 people over a two-week period. About a third of these — 299 cases — were likely to have been infectious around the time of the event, with 582 cases likely to have acquired an infection around the time of the event.

Matches of the European football championship, however, led to many more infections, which the government partly blamed on “significant numbers of ticketless individuals” convening around Wembley Stadium.

Just under 2,300 cases were likely to have been infectious around the time of EURO 2020 final, according to NHS Test and Trace data. An additional 3,404 people in and around the stadium, potentially acquired infection around the time of the event.

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“EURO 2020 was a unique occasion and it is unlikely we would see a similar impact on COVID-19 cases from future events,” Dr Jennifer Smith, Deputy Medical Director of Public Health England, said in a statement.

Cultural Secretary Oliver Dowden said meanwhile that the data show that “we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important that people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings.”

“So that we can keep the football season, theatres and gigs safe with full crowds this winter, I urge sport, music and culture fans to get the vaccine as this is the safest way we can bring big events firing on all cylinders once more,” he added.

Many venues in the UK, including indoor music venues, spectator sports events or business fairs, require attendees to present a NHS COVID pass which attests they are either fully vaccinated, tested negative against COVID-9 over the previous 48 hours or have recently recovered from the disease.

Nearly 88% of the UK population aged 16 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 76.7% have been administered a full vaccination course.

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