Living with Covid - rehearsals

The UK has moved to a new phase of its Covid response. All four nations of the UK either have removed all, or most, legal requirements for measures to stop the spread of Covid. 

See our Covid tool for up-to-date information for each nation.


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? 

This 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 rehearsals. 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. You may need to adapt what you're doing over time. 

Risk assessment

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 for rehearsal to help you do this.

Speak to members

The views of members will continue to play an important part in your planning. You can use our Return to rehearsal survey to help gauge how members feel about returning to rehearsals and what their risk appetite is.

Unanimous views might be hard to come by. But if most people are happy to stop doing Y but keep X, it will help make your decision making easier and give you some numbers to back up and explain your decisions.

Knowing the general vaccination status of the group will also be useful. This does not have to be on an individual basis. Anonymous data (e.g. 80% have had their booster jab) will help you assess the risk level in the group and plan activities accordingly. Our Return to rehearsal survey can help with this too.

Vulnerable people: official guidance continues to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, particularly vulnerable people. Regardless of their vaccination status, you should consider this and try and address their concerns in your risk assessment.

If you know who your vulnerable group members are you could talk to them in confidence and find out what would help them feel safe to return to rehearsals.

You will also need to talk to non-vulnerable group members to help them understand that some of your continuing measures may not be about them, but about enabling vulnerable members to feel safe and return to the group.

A key message once free testing ends, is for anyone with any symptoms, whether they believe they are Covid-symptoms or not, to stay away from your rehearsals.

Divisive: Covid has been a divisive issue for groups so far. As legal restrictions are removed, it may well continue to be. There will be those that want to go back completely to pre-Covid behaviours, and some that want to keep existing measures.

It is worth bearing in mind the general approach is shifting, so it is probably right that you try and shift with that - which will mean working towards reducing measures but incorporating safer behaviours more generally.

Managing disagreement or dissent is never easy. It’s important to try and maintain a balanced views and not to let personal views/biases take over. It can be useful as a committee to have some guiding principles:

  • You will never please all the people all of the time. It’s about getting the balance right in favour of the majority of the group whilst listening and acknowledging the minority and trying to accommodate their concerns
  • There are no absolute rights or wrongs here and provided you take decisions and implement measures based on understanding the rules and risks, in good faith, you are not only fulfilling your duty, but you are also doing the best you can by your group, and that’s all that can be expected.

And where members do make life difficult remind yourself, and them, that:

  • You are the ones responsible for providing a safe environment and have a duty of care to all members
  • Balancing these responsibilities with music making and keeping the group going is no easy task – but you are giving up your time and energy to do this on everyone else’s behalf. 

Venues

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 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. But you might also 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?

Planning activities with safer behaviours

The recommend safer behaviours are:

  1. Getting vaccinated.
  2. Letting fresh air in if meeting indoors, or meeting outside.
  3. 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.
  4. Trying to stay at home if you are unwell.
  5. Taking a test if you have COVID-19 symptoms, (if available) and staying at home and avoiding contact with other people if you test positive; and
  6. Washing your hands and following advice to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’.

    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 a rehearsal 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 encouraging safer behaviours .

    Vaccination: The Covid pass has been phased out as a requirement in all four nations but remains a voluntary option in some. Knowing the anonymous vaccination status for your group is useful, but making being vaccinated a requirement to attend a rehearsal will be hard to justify now and may cause more problems than it solves.

    Covid status data is special category data, which means you must have a genuine reason for asking for it (even if you don’t actually store the data yourself). Will you be checking everyone? What will you do if someone does not provide evidence of the required status? Only ask for it if you are actually going to use it, otherwise you are asking for data with no reason and given the nature of the data it would also create an unnecessary data risk for the group.

    A better approach might be to ask that people are vaccinated, but not require / enforce it.

    Testing: individuals testing before they go to crowded indoor spaces continues to be an important part of Covid measures. As with vaccinations the best approach for groups is to encourage rather than require / enforce, especially as free tests are 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).  

    As free testing is faded out you could encourage members to think about the risk they might pose. For example, if they have recently been in close contact with someone who has since tested positive, they might consider missing a rehearsal.

    Stay at home if you are unwell: again, this is about individuals taking responsibility and considering others in their actions. The group’s role is to 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.

    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 up with rehearsals as you work towards a performance. Hybrid rehearsals - essentially live streaming the in-person rehearsal to anyone at home via Zoom or YouTube (for example) – can be done with relative ease and little cost. Smart phones, tablets and laptops can all offer good enough mics and cameras to do this. Of course, you can invest more in external mics and cameras to improve the quality if you want. A good internet connection is important, this does not have to be Wi-Fi – 4G phone data would do the job. Another consideration is some equipment to hold devices in the right place – but this can be as low tech as a pile of books and sticky tape. We have a resource to find out more about live streaming equipment (note that it is aimed at live streaming performances where you would generally want better quality). 

    Reducing risk of spread at an event

    The other three safer behaviours are about what you can do reduce the risk of transmission at a rehearsal 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

    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 sessions, 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 offer our group members a discount on CO2 monitors. 

    See the Health and Safety Executives for more information on ventilation.

    Face coverings

    Face coverings are no longer a legal requirement in a rehearsal setting for 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 members 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 whilst singing could still be considered. We know this is not ideal and for groups that have been doing it members might see moving away from this as part of ‘getting back to normal’ - which is an understandable point of view. If you are not using face coverings whilst singing 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

    If you do want to sing in face coverings, Making Music corporate member Sing Safe offers discounts on masks designed for singers. 

    Social distancing 

    The social distancing requirement has been removed in all four nations. Whilst formal rules of staying 2m apart aren’t likely to be relevant anymore, giving some consideration to physical space is still needed. For example:

    • Remind and encourage members to consider each other’s personal space
    • Consider the total numbers and the size of the space – will it be overcrowded?
    • Could you have some simple measures to help manage potential pinch points – like cloak rooms or kitchen areas
    • Do certain activities increase risk such as singing (see Face Coverings above) or sharing music stands? 

    Wash hands

    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. 

    Complacency

    As we move towards living with Covid and reducing measures one of the dangers will be complacency. When we couldn’t meet friends and everyone had to wear face coverings and keep 2m apart it was hard to forget about the things we should be doing. As measures ease, it is easier to forget to wash your hands every time you arrive somewhere or to consider each other’s space. Embedding safer behaviours into standard practice will not happen automatically. It can be a hard thing to judge – officious and constant reminders may have the opposite effect, but not doing anything could lead to complacency which is hard to reverse. Some gentle and occasional reminders along the way will be useful.

    What to do if there is a case reported

    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.

    If a case is reported you are not required to do anything, but should let members know so they have the relevant information, so keeping a register of attendees is good idea.

    A case of Covid reported after a rehearsal one week does not mean you have to cancel the following week’s rehearsal. But there will be some considerations for the group: 

    • Ask the person if they are happy for the rest of the group to be told
    • Tell the rest of the group – either as an anonymous case – or naming the person if they are happy
    • Tell the venue
    • Ask members to take LFTs (where available) before attending the next rehearsal
    • Remind members to stay away if they have any Covid or flu-like symptoms
    • Consider extra mitigations for the following week (e.g. face coverings)
    • If several members do get Covid or if local cases numbers are high, you might consider cancelling for a week.

    Review your procedures: a case reported after a rehearsal 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?

    The new general public health guidance is about long-term thinking and changing behaviours.

    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 like to phase out over time.

    Covid risks may still change and so risks 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 rehearsals. It looks at various potential risk for a rehearsal – not just Covid.

    Making Music Template risk assessment for rehearsals (Excel)

     


    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.