The UK has moved to a new phase of its Covid response. All four nations of the UK have removed all, or most, legal requirements for measures to stop the spread of Covid.
The removal of legal restrictions doesn’t mean Covid risks have gone, but they are changing. The vaccination programme and natural immunity have led to high antibody rates across the population. This, coupled with milder variants, means the risk to an individual’s health and of the NHS being overwhelmed is significantly reduced.
Reduced risk means the focus is changing and the emphasis is now on living with Covid. Previous Covid specific health regulation and guidance is being replaced with more general public health guidance, and organisations will no longer be required to carry out a specific Covid risk assessment, though they are expected to address Covid risks as part of their general risk assessment.
This shift in emphasis will mean a change in approach:
- Previously: What do we need to do to make sure we are Covid safe? How can we make our activities work around that?
- Now: What do we want to do? What measure can we take to minimise Covid risks?
The new approach is also about long term thinking. It is not about temporary measures; the emphasis is instead on individuals and groups adopting and embedding safer behaviours into what they do as standard to help reduce spread of the virus.
What will this mean for groups?
The legal requirements have been removed but, just as they always have been, groups are still responsible for providing a safe environment at their performances and events. Considering Covid will continue to be part of that, adopting safer behaviours may well mean embedding some of the things you have been doing over the last two years into standard practice.
It is also worth noting that this continues to be a changing situation, so what you are doing may need to be adapted over time.
A big change is that 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 means you should still be assessing the Covid risk and deciding what safer behaviours to adopt based on that risk assessment. We have provided a template risk assessment to help you do this.
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, 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.
Professionals: professional musicians have been keen and willing to get back to live performing. As all restrictions are removed, they will still want to feel safe when they are at work, so make sure you are clear about your plans and that they are happy.
Members: don’t assume that because they are happy to rehearse, your members are also happy to perform:
- They might not be comfortable musically if they have been away from regular in-person rehearsals and rushing into a performance before they are ready might put some off. Of course, some might be itching to get back in front of the public, so try and be accommodating to all if you can – does everyone who rehearses have to perform?
- A public performance carries with it different Covid-19 risks to a rehearsal, so consult with your members to understand how they feel.
Your venue will continue to be vital in helping you provide a safe environment. Some venues will be better suited to this than others. Ones with outdoor space for example or good natural ventilation (see ventilation below) will be a big help.
The venue may well 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 to set your own rules. But you might at least want to know that they are still taking Covid seriously and can support you in providing a safe environment. You might need to push a bit harder to understand what the venue is already doing and possibly negotiate with them about what you'd like them to contribute. For example, what are their cleaning procedures between hires? Can they air the space between hires? Do they have sufficient supplies of soap? Are you able to unlock windows? Will they be asking for evidence of Covid status on entry?
Planning activities with safer behaviours
The recommend safer behaviours are:
Stop people with Covid coming in the first place
Three of the safer behaviours are ways of making sure people with Covid don’t come to an event in the first place:
- Getting vaccinated.
- Staying at home if you are unwell, whatever your symptoms.
- Taking a test (if available) if you have what may be COVID-19 symptoms, and staying at home and avoiding contact with other people if you test positive
There is an emphasis on individuals taking responsibility here and thinking of others in their actions. But groups do have a role to play in messaging and reiterating messages.
Vaccination and testing: these have previously been managed by checking Covid status (individuals showing evidence of vaccination or recent test status to enter events). The requirement to do this has been removed in all four nations.
Free tests are also not available as standard in any UK nation (some still offer it for people with symptoms - see our Covid tool for up to date information for each nation). Asking people to test would present a financial barrier to attendance. You could still ask them to test if possible (those that do will help mitigate some of the risk) – but requiring proof for entry is no longer a viable option.
Stay at home if you are unwell: this is about individuals taking responsibility and considering others in their actions. All you can do is request and encourage rather than enforce.
This isn’t just about Covid symptoms. Staying at home if you are unwell will help reduce the spread of other respiratory illnesses such as flu, which always carries increased risks for vulnerable people in winter.
You will also need to consider your refund policy for ticket holders and make sure it is clear to them. Options you might consider are:
- Offering to transfer the booking to someone else
- Offering to transfer the booking to another event
- Ultimately a refund should be available if that is the option they want
Reducing risk of spread at an event
The other three safer behaviours are about what you can do reduce the risk of transmission at an event if someone with Covid does attend.
- Letting fresh air in if meeting indoors, or meeting outside.
- Wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces, especially where you come into contact with people you do not usually meet, when rates of transmission are high.
- Washing your hands and following advice to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’.
Ventilation continues to be a key part of reducing Covid risks. Before we explain more, here is a quick reminder of how Covid can spread:
- Droplets: these are large, heavy particles that can vary in size. Because they are heavy, they fall to the ground quickly, but you don’t know quite where or when. There is evidence to show that larger particles do not travel beyond 1-2 metres which is part of the reason we had social distancing requirements.
- Aerosols: these pose the biggest risk. They are smaller particles that we breathe out and carry the virus if we have Covid. They are lighter than air and float around according to the air flow in that space. They also linger in the air for much longer than droplets. Think cigarette smoke or perfume, which you can often detect in a room long after the smoker or scented person has left.
Good ventilation is about reducing the risk posed by aerosols. By bringing fresh air in and taking old air out you are reducing the amount of potentially harmful aerosol particles in a room – and so reducing the damage they can do. The better ventilated a room is, the lower the risk of transmission.
How well ventilated somewhere is will depend on several factors and can change from day to day. The size of the space, the number of people in it, the activity being undertaken and the weather on any day will all have an effect.
Making it an exact science is serious work. Unless you’re a physicist with a lot of time and equipment, you will not be able to understand exactly how air flows in your venue. But there are some basic things you can do that will make a difference and ensure you are using ventilation effectively in your safer behaviours:
- Outside is best - if it’s an option
- Larger spaces 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 (think one spoonful of salt in 2 litres of soup – or 6 litres of soup). So starting with a big room will help, but that doesn’t mean smaller rooms can’t work, or that larger rooms wouldn’t benefit from some additional ventilation.
- Natural ventilation: venues often offer good natural ventilation that might be all you will need. Being able to open doors and windows (especially high ones) to create airflow will help the stale warmer air (which may contain Covid aerosol particles) being sucked outside and reduce risk.
- Having windows and doors open does not mean you have to be cold, you can keep the heating on (in fact, as warm air rises, heating can help getting aerosols out of the way!), although there is obviously a financial and climate impact to consider.
- A cold room is not necessarily well ventilated; ventilation is about getting air moving, whether that’s warm or cold air. What is important is getting the ‘old’ air out of the room,
- You don’t have to have windows and doors wide open – partially open doors will still provide adequate ventilation
- It doesn’t have to be permanent. If you are only using the venue for a few hours, airing the space before you start and during the break might be enough. For longer days, some breaks at regular intervals to air the space might be a good idea.
- Mechanical ventilation: 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
- Fans: this will not provide ventilation alone – but can help get air from corners of the room moving – ventilation will then help that old air leave the room altogether.
- Identify areas that might have poor ventilation and consider how you can improve it – and if you can’t, should you use it? A lot of this comes down to common sense – if it does not have good natural or mechanical ventilation, you can often ‘feel’ poor ventilation: the air feels stuffy or smells bad.
- CO2 monitors: these can be useful in helping to identify if a space is poorly ventilated and needs attention. Making Music Corporate member test-metre are offering our group members a discount on CO2 monitors.
See the Health and Safety Executives for more information on ventilation.
Face coverings are no longer a legal requirement in a performance setting in all UK nations. Check our Covid tool for up-to-date information for each nation.
However, guidance for all four nations still encourages face coverings in crowded enclosed spaces. As such groups might decide to ask audiences to wear face coverings but enforcing it might not be realistic, and it’s down to personal choice if someone does or not.
The nature of your activity is also a consideration. Singing does increase the number of aerosols expelled and so an infected person could spread harmful particles over a larger area; as such it does carry some increased risks.
Wearing face coverings during a performance isn’t really an option but you might consider some physical distancing to mitigate the increased risk:
- 1 metre radius physical distancing around each singer
- Singers facing away from each other / side by side
- Singers facing away from instrumentalists / conductor - and at least 1 or 2 m distance.
- Singers at least 2m - ideally more - from front row of audience
The social distancing requirement has been removed in all four nations. Whilst formal rules of staying 2m apart aren’t like to be relevant any more, giving some consideration to physical space is still needed. For example:
- Remind and encourage attendees to consider each other’s personal space
- Consider the total numbers and the size of the space and how to avoid overcrowding:
- Will pre-booked tickets only help to control numbers?
- If you do have on the door entry how will you manage total numbers? Could you have some simple measures to help manage potential pinch points – like cloak rooms or toilets
- Will staggered entry times or one-way systems for entry and exit help?
Interval / Refreshments
Lots of groups stopped having intervals or changed how they did them. Part of living with Covid could be getting back to more normal / familiar event patterns by having intervals. After all, one of the reasons for attending live music events is that people want to be social. But consider how to reduce risk or what behaviours you might want to keep from Covid times:
- Remind people about personal space
- Outdoors – as the weather improves, perhaps intervals/refreshments could be outside?
- Table service where that is possible
- Use a pre-order system
- Manage queuing with stickers on the floor and reminding people about keeping a distance
- Bring refreshments to people in their seats (but maybe you need to air the auditorium in the interval)
- Perhaps minimise items being handled by too many people by using disposable glasses and packaged snacks, for instance (though of course you may want to balance this with ecological considerations)
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 and big impact. Much of this comes down to personal responsibility and Public Health England’s Catch it, Kill it, Bin it campaign provides lots of reminders. But again, the group has a role to play in encouraging and facilitating the behaviours by making sure soap, hand sanitizer and bins are available
What to do if there is a case reported after an event
The requirement to collect details of attendees has also been removed and organisations are not expected to report suspected cases at events.
Self-isolation rules have been relaxed in all four nations and people with Covid or who have been in close contact with someone with Covid are not necessarily required to self-isolate. Indeed, with the end of free testing, people might not know whether they have Covid or not, as many cases are asymptomatic.
In practice you will of course have all the details of most people that attend and if a case is reported to you after an event you might still want to consider some actions:
- Tell the venue – they might have their own protocols to follow such as telling their staff or audiences, or following additional cleaning procedures. Coordinate with them about what they are doing / who they are telling
- Assuming the venue will not let people know, you might want to consider telling anyone at the event about the case:
- Even though you don’t have to, it is a courtesy to give them the information, so they can decide what to do themselves
- You might ask them to inform you if they do test positive so you can review your processes (see below)
Review your procedures: a case reported after an event is never a good thing but it does give you a chance to test your measures / safer behaviours. 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.
How long do we have to keep measures in place?
So rather than thinking about how long to keep measures for or ‘when can we stop doing X’, the focus is on adopting safer behaviours into your standard procedures. Things like thinking about how we ventilate buildings, thinking about where we go / what we do if we are unwell, and more regular hand washing may well become the norm now. Other measures like face coverings and social distancing are more likely to phase out over time.
Covid risks may still change and so risk assessments need to be reviewed regularly, and you might vary what you do over time. For example, risks change as the weather gets warmer and colder – and a new variant of COVID could change the picture again.
Template risk assessment
We have produced a template risk assessment for performances. It looks at various potential risks for a performance – not just Covid.
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.