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Culture Sec warns mass events could be off 'for many years' if they don't return in June

28 March 2021, 12:33 | Updated: 29 March 2021, 08:02

By Joe Cook

Mass events could be off for "many years to come" if they are not able to open from the middle of June, the Culture Secretary has told LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday.

With many cultural venues having been closed for over 12 months, Oliver Dowden said his aim "is very simple in all this: it is to get as many people back as we possibly can in from middle of June".

"I think if by that stage, when we have got the vaccine rollout proceeding, we have the effects of summer in terms of surprising a respiratory disease, we have to get those areas of national life back towards a commercial viability," he told LBC.

"If we can't do it then I fear we won't do it for many years to come and of course we will look at all these factors and measures that we can take to mitigate risk and maximise numbers."

Read more: Boris Johnson warns freedom 'depends on things going right' ahead of lockdown easing

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Amongst the measures under consideration to facilitate mass events' return are so-called "Covid passports", which could allow individuals to prove they have been vaccinated, have had a negative Covid-19 test or recently had the virus.

Under the government's current plans for easing restrictions, crowds of up to 10,000 in the largest venues could be allowed at performances and sporting events from May 17.

Read more: Covid-19: How differently are UK countries leaving lockdown?

The FA Cup Final and the World Snooker Championship are among the pilot events designed to test the large-scale return of spectators to venues, as the country seeks to reopen following the latest coronavirus lockdown.

It is hoped that all remaining restrictions on larger events and performances could be lifted from June 21, which is the earliest date for all legal limits on social contact to be removed.

Read more: Government planning to allow football fans to attend Euro 2021 games

The FA Cup final at Wembley is the most high-profile event that will be used to rest the return of fans.
The FA Cup final at Wembley is the most high-profile event that will be used to rest the return of fans. Picture: PA

Mr Dowden told Tom Swarbrick he thought there was "some sense" in calls for people to be allowed to conduct Covid tests at home before visiting the theatre this summer.

It followed calls from Rugby World Cup Winner Lawrence Dallaglio for the government to consider home tests to ease a return to mass events.

But, some have concerns that people who already have tickets for an event could decide not to report a positive home Covid test.

Read more: Second vaccine doses are 'protected' in plans to deal with dip in supply

Read more: Government considers Covid 'certificates' for large-scale events after lockdown

"We have not made final decisions about the sort of restrictions that we will pose for Stage 4, when we remove further restrictions," the culture secretary said.

"That is why we are carrying out these pilots. One of the things that we are considering is Covid certification, but of course the sort of measures Lawrence Dallaglio talked about are also under consideration.

"I know that many big commercial theatres and big sporting institutions do that have testing capacity and we will continue to discuss that with them."

On Saturday, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was currently no data which could dissuade him from the current roadmap, but warned future freedoms "depends on things going right".

However, a member of the governments NERVTAG advisory group warned that June 21 "is not the great day of liberation the prime minister is making it out to be".

Speaking to Swarbrick on Sunday in a personal capacity, leading sociologist Professor Robert Dingwall said: "We still have this talk of well we might want you to wear face coverings, we might demand vaccine passports, we might try and push on with social distancing, we will continue aggressive test and trace.

"All of these things which are incredibly disruptive and damaging to everyday life and society and which will cease to be justified in a largely vaccinated population."