Major events with large crowds at football stadiums and smaller scale functions at live music venues in England are set to be piloted in the spring ahead of the planned widespread relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in June.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said about a dozen events, including the world snooker championships and the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium, were being lined up as “test events”.
Officials said the events would be used to provide scientific data into how both small- and large-scale events could be permitted to reopen safely in the coming months.
While precise figures on the number of spectators allowed to participate in the pilots are yet to be determined, they are expected to go ahead in London, Sheffield and Liverpool.
Under medical supervision, some of the pilots will include spectators and fans not socially distanced, but attendees will be required to have tested negative for coronavirus before the event and undergo a second test afterwards.
“This review will be crucial to how venues – from major sport stadiums to comedy clubs, theatres to live music spaces, wedding venues to conference centres – could operate this summer,” the department added.
Under step three of the government’s roadmap – no earlier than 17 May – ministers will seek to ease restrictions on large performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of up to 1,000 people and 4,000 people in outdoor venues.
In larger outdoor seated venues, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend, but only under step four – after 21 June – will the government seek to relax all remaining restrictions and allow premises such as nightclubs to reopen. It also hopes to ends social distancing measures.
Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said the test events this spring “will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing” and it is expected that researchers will produce a report to ministers by the end of May.
“We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen,” he added. “We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.
“These important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave and that I’m fully focused on delivering”.
Claire McColgan, the director of culture and tourism in Liverpool, said the city’s experience with piloting mass Covid testing “means we have the knowledge and infrastructure in place to deliver complicated projects safely”.
“We really hope we can help provide the evidence needed to ensure the wider sector is able to open across the country in the coming months,” she added.