Government Publishes Events Research Programme Findings

The government has today (Friday 25 June) published its findings into the first phase of the Events Research Programme (ERP) – in which Liverpool played a major role.

The ambition of the ERP was to understand how the risk of transmission can be reduced at large events when public health measures are introduced.  

The study gathered significant data on behaviour, movement, ventilation and testing and has shown that with mitigating factors, such as social distancing at pinch points, face coverings and staggered entry and exit times, events can be conducted more safely at increased capacities while maintaining low risk of transmission.

In April and May, Liverpool hosted four hugely successful events 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 informed they could not to attend.

Ticketholders were encouraged to take a PCR test on the day of the event, and a second one five days later.

There was no detectable spread of Covid-19 across the region following Liverpool’s events.

Read the initial findings into the city’s pilot events here, and read the full government report here.  

Professor Iain Buchan, Dean of the Institute of Population Health at the University of Liverpool, said:

“Audiences contributed to important learning by answering questions, taking tests and allowing us to sample the air they were breathing.

“Partnership was key to success and only 12 people were found to have the Covid virus – half of whom mixed outside of the event.

“Everyone felt safe and had a great time. Hopefully as more of us get vaccinated and the Delta wave subsides, we can all enjoy events like these again soon.”  

Liverpool’s Director of Public Health, Matt Ashton, said:

“It’s good so see the government has published these results. Our experience in Liverpool was that it is possible to stage really high-quality, Covid-safe events when public health work closely with the local promoters, the culture team and our communities.

“A key part has been communication and engagement with ticketholders and residents, to understand what Covid-safe events look like in the future.

“I’d urge promoters to work with their local public health teams to ensure they are doing everything they can to put on safe events.”   

Director of Culture Liverpool, Claire McColgan, said:

“Being part of the ERP was a great moment for Liverpool to show the rest of the UK and world that we can do events safely – we have proved that.

“The brilliant work of public health, the University of Liverpool really made sure this city came together to deliver something amazing, under incredibly difficult circumstances.”

FAQs about Liverpool’s role in the Events Research Programme

What were Liverpool’s events?
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

How many people attended Liverpool’s pilot events as part of the ERP?

13,258 in total

How many people took the on-the-day and the follow-up PCR tests?

Everybody took LFT tests before, only five tested positive, and they were not allowed access to the event.

Overall, 17% of people also took an additional PCR test at home before the event, and 36% returned a home PCR after the event. PCR return rate differed by event and was highest when some sort of incentive was offered. For example, at Sefton Park, those who took the PCRs were automatically entered into a ballot to win other event tickets, and they were three times more likely to return a PCR test.

How many people tested positive after each event?

Five people with the Covid-19 virus were identified before the events and did not attend; four people were later identified as possibly having the virus at an event; and a further eight people were identified with the virus 4-7 days after they attended and event. Of the people who tested positive at or after and event, two attended the music festival, ten attended the nightclub and none attended the business festival. Many of the cases were friends who meet regularly and may not have been infected at an event. Everyone who tested positive was successfully followed up by the contact tracing team.

Will the event-goers have spread the virus to other ticketholders?

Everybody was advised to take a PCR test after the event, to follow the rules, and to get tested if they developed symptoms. Anyone who tested positive has been followed up successfully using local contact tracing teams. Several of the cases traced were among friends who mix outside of the events, and they may have caught the Covid virus at or outside the event. We did not see any evidence of large-scale spread at any of the events.

Is it likely the actual transmission figure could be higher, as not everyone completed the PCR process?

It is possible, but this is not reflected in community infection rates across Liverpool City Region (LCR) and the wider Cheshire and Merseyside region where we analysed all known Covid-19 test results. Rates were low before the events and remain low a month later.

Were Liverpool’s pilot events a success? 

Yes, very much so.  There was significant learning as a result of the events, which has been fed into the Government for consideration.  In addition, Liverpool City Council and the University of Liverpool worked closely with promoters to develop Covid-safe protocols, which they are refining and sharing with wider promoter industry partners.

Are events arguably safer than supermarket/restaurant visits as everyone has tested negative with a LFT?

In some senses yes. If everyone at an event is tested and only a small proportion of those you mix with in other places are tested then the risk of catching the Covid-19 virus is less when considering similar venues where people breathe the same air in the same way. Of course, at bigger events there are more people – so this comparison is difficult to make.

Liverpool Waterfront