Government releases delayed events data after Lloyd Webber LBC interview

25 June 2021, 16:36 | Updated: 25 June 2021, 18:06

The Tory peer was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari
The Tory peer was speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari. Picture: LBC/PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Government has released data from a pilot program into live events following an appearance by Lord Lloyd Webber on LBC.

Just hours after Andrew Lloyd Webber told LBC he was starting legal action to force the Government to release details of its pilots for getting audiences back to mass events, figures have been released suggesting there were 28 cases of covid among 58,000 people who attended them.

On Friday Andrew Lloyd Webber appeared exclusively on LBC calling for the Government to hand over the results from the Events Research Programme (ERP) scheme.

Watch: Lord Lloyd Webber tells LBC theatres have been made a 'sacrificial lamb'

Lord Lloyd Webber told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast the Government has made the theatre industry a "sacrificial lamb" as he renewed calls for the publication of the delayed live events report.

The composer, 73, told LBC that Public Health England officials "don't have a clue" about the industry and how it operates.

By the time the data was released, Andrew Lloyd Webber was not available to comment as he was preparing his new show, Cinderella for its first performance, but a spokesperson for his Really Useful Group and LW Theatres said:

"After weeks of delay, ending in our legal action yesterday, the Government has finally published a version of the Events Research Programme report. What is clear is that the data shows the events were safe, with almost no Covid cases at all and good air quality. This should provide a clear path to full re-opening on July 19. Instead, the report seems to conclude that a raft of further investigations are needed. There is no basis whatsoever for this conclusion and no equivalent demand being made for other activities from shopping to eating out in a restaurant or going on the bus.

“Our legal action seeks much more information from the Government than this report and we are waiting for them to provide further details to our lawyers. We will comment more fully at a later date but we have a brand new show to open tonight - at 50% capacity.”

Watch: Lord Lloyd Webber: No 10 doesn't rate culture and I’ve never met the PM

Lord Lloyd-Webber was among figures from the theatre and music sectors, including musician Peter Gabriel, theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and music industry trade body Live, who launched legal action to force the Government to hand over the results from its coronavirus pilot events scheme.

Watch In Full: Lord Lloyd Webber speaks to Nick Ferrari on LBC

The ERP, commissioned by the Prime Minister in February, saw 58,000 participants attend indoor and outdoor venues across the country, including in Liverpool, Sheffield and London.

The ERP was put in place to assess the safety of mass gatherings during the pandemic and whether they affect rates of infection.

A delayed report on data from the first nine pilots of the ERP's first phase in April and May, which featured the FA Cup final, the Brit Awards and the World Snooker Championship, revealed 28 potentially linked positive cases of Covid-19.

Of these, 11 were identified as "potentially infectious at an event" while a further 17 were "potentially infected at or around the time of an event", the report published on Friday said.

In a foreword Nicholas Hytner and David Ross, chief advisers for the ERP, said the report "does not make conclusive public health recommendations on the reopening of events at this stage".

They highlighted that studies took place during low prevalence of coronavirus, adding that "future public health measures need to adapt to the prevailing levels and patterns of the virus".

The report, which saw input from scientific experts, said that "mitigation measures" - such as face coverings, ventilation, testing, social distancing and restrictions on food and drink - can be used to reduce and manage risks at events.

The report observed that levels of risk vary by venue, with outdoor spaces "generally lower risk than indoor spaces".

It highlighted that higher risk areas include those which have an increased density of people for longer periods of time, for example half-time at a football match, and where ventilation is poorer.

Such higher density puts "increased pressure on pinch points", such as toilets.

The report also warned that "large unstructured gatherings indoors" where people mix in close proximity pose a higher risk.

It observed that compliance with requirements to socially distance and wear face masks were "mostly high", with lower face covering compliance associated with "higher attendance levels, circulation zones and exiting".

Hospitality areas and people congregating in groups also saw people not wearing face coverings.

Overall the report observed that an average of 96.2% of people in sampled areas wore face coverings correctly while seated, particularly indoors (98.3%), while at outdoor events it was 92.1%.

The report also said that "nearly all CO2 levels" recorded at events "were within the bounds of reasonable ventilation benchmarks with outdoor spaces clearly better for ventilation than indoors".

The report noted that the ERP will continue to gather evidence from further events in subsequent phases.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "Our innovative and science-led Events Research Programme is helping us to better understand how the risk of transmission at major events can be effectively mitigated.

"The findings and learnings will help event organisers plan for large audiences as we move to Step 4 of the road map."

Mr Hytner said: "These events are so important for our wellbeing, our sense of community and togetherness, and they have been sorely missed.

"This programme has shown that through the public demonstrating their status we have been able to track the virus, creating a safer space for the public to get back to the events they love.

"The findings from the first phase of this programme will help facilitate the return of what so many of us enjoy: attending exciting and top quality events throughout the country when it is safe to do so."