All four nations of the UK have been living without Covid restrictions since early 2022. Although during much of 2020 and 2021 groups were required to take action to stop the spread of Covid, expectations have changed.
Likewise, many members and audiences' have changed. People are used to living with Covid, and without restrictions. Others might still have concerns and want to see some measures in place.
So where does that leave groups? It can still be divisive and tricky. Restrictions have gone – but some risk remains. Groups still need to provide a safe environment for their activities and think about what they can do to reduce risk. What that means in practice will be different to what it meant at the height of the pandemic to what it means today.
There is still official government guidance (not restrictions) which focusses on living safely with Covid, to help stop the spread of Covid and other respiratory infections such as flu. Groups could consider taking some of these measures. Broadly speaking, what groups can do falls into two categories:
- Encourage but not enforce - certain behaviours from members and audiences
- Put in place simple but effective measures – high impact on reducing risk, but low impact on activity
Organisations are no longer required to do a Covid specific risk assessment, but they will be expected to consider Covid in a wider risk assessment of their activities. This could be part of assessing the risk of general respiratory transmissible diseases. You can use our template risk assessment for rehearsals and performances to help you do this – and the sections below will help you consider possible measures to mitigate risk.
Some venues will also have their own risk assessment – make sure you see it and that it is compatible with what you want to do.
Some venues might not have a risk assessment. In some ways this can be good as it gives you some freedom. But you might also want to know that they are providing a safe environment.
Stop Covid spreading
The most effective thing to stop the spread of Covid is that people who have it should stay away from places where the potential for spread is high.
This falls into the ‘encourage don’t enforce’ category. There are things you can occasionally, gently remind people about, without making them conditions of entry or access.
Testing if people have respiratory or flu-like symptoms (free testing is not available from the government as standard so this does have a cost implication)
- Asking anyone who has tested positive or has untested symptoms to stay at home
- Knowing the list of symptoms – this does change, so knowing what they are will help people identify if they could pose a risk LINK
- Getting vaccinated - rates remain high in the UK and booster programmes are being rolled out for different groups
Offer alternative participation
Hybrid rehearsals: if you are encouraging people to judge their own risk and potentially miss rehearsals, offering hybrid rehearsals will keep them feeling included and help them keep with rehearsals as you work towards a performance. This can be especially valuable for more vulnerable people who will naturally want to take fewer risks.
We have a separate resource on combining online and in-person rehearsals for more information.
Hybrid performances: similarly, you might have audience members who don’t feel comfortable attending events. Livestreaming performances can help keep them connected to the group and offer a potential revenue steam too. The quality of the livestreaming is probably more important for a performance than rehearsal but is still very achievable. We have more resources on live streaming to find out more
Good ventilation remains one of the best defences. The better ventilated a room is, the lower the risk of transmission.
Making ventilation an exact science is not easy - there are several factors that affect how well ventilated a space is, and it can change from day to day. But you can often tell if a space is poorly ventilated. If there is no natural or mechanical ventilation, you can often ‘feel’ poor ventilation and the air is stuffy or smells bad.
There are some basic principles you can apply to make sure you are ventilating effectively.
- Venues often offer good natural ventilation that might be all you will need.
- Larger rooms and high ceilings, for example, with a higher volume of air in the first place will mean that any harmful aerosols are diluted, hopefully beyond their ability to be harmful.
- Being able to open doors and windows (especially high ones) to create airflow. But it’s not about being freezing – in fact of you are freezing you probably have better ventilation than you need!
- It doesn’t have to be permanent. Bringing fresh air in before an event of a few hours might be enough. For longer events, breaks at regular intervals to air the space might be a good idea.
- Some venues will have mechanical ventilation you can use. It is important that it removes and replaces air rather than recirculates it. If this is an option, make sure you understand how it works and use it properly.
- Outside is best - if it’s an option
How well you can use these measures will depend a lot on the venue. This means ventilation is a much bigger consideration in venue choice than it has been in the past.
See the Health and Safety Executives webiste for more information on ventilation.
Good hygiene like regular hand washing, sneezing into the crook of your arm and disposing of tissues quickly are the perhaps the easiest wins – simple to do with a big impact.
Much of this comes down to personal responsibility and there are still public health reminders about this. Groups can help facilitate this by making sure soap, tissues, hand sanitiser and bins are available – this is also something you might want to talk to your venue about.
Ask venues about the cleaning process between hires – this can be useful to help you assess risk.
Face covering requirements have been removed, apart from in specific health care settings. Some guidance does encourage face coverings in crowded enclosed spaces and singing does carry some increased risks due to the increased number of aerosols expelled.
Generally, face coverings are the exception not the norm now and people see it as a personal choice. You might decide to ask or encourage wearing them – but realistically that is the extent of what your group could do.
Audiences have returned, but not always in the numbers seen before 2020.
There has been a lot of research into audience attitudes to returning to live events since March 2020.
The Insights Alliance and Audience Agency in particular have a lot of interesting data. We summarised some of the key findings in a blog last November. The Insights Alliance second wave of research ended in February 2022, and they have a webinar recording that looks at the findings.
General audience research is useful context, but the attitudes of your own specific audiences is the most valuable data. A short survey to understand how they feel about attending and what concerns they have could help inform your planning.
Whatever you do decide, communicate it to potential audiences so they know what you are doing and can have confidence in attending.
What to do if there is a case reported
There are no regulations in place about reporting cases of Covid at events and no requirements on individuals to self-isolate. So, if a case is reported you are not required to do anything and there is no reason to cancel the next rehearsal. But you might still want to consider;
- letting people know so they have the relevant information to make their own decisions (ask the person who has Covid if they are happy to be named – if they are not, then keep it general)
- asking that if anyone develops symptoms to consider testing or not coming to rehearsals next week
- telling the venue.
A reported case can also be a good chance to review your procedures. If a case was reported and it did not spread, then it is a sign your measures are effective. On the other hand, if there was some transmission to others in attendance, then a review of what you are doing is a good idea.
We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.