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Coronavirus in Europe: The state of play [updating]

A continuously updated list of coronavirus-related restrictions on concert touring in Europe's biggest live music markets

By Jon Chapple on 12 Mar 2020

London's normally bustling Trafalgar Square stands empty on 20 March

image © sarflondondunc/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Update 26/3/20: Most of Europe is now subject to stay-at-home orders (in ‘lockdown’), with the likes of Germany, the UK and France all forbidding their citizens from congregating in groups of more than two – let alone allowing them to attend a show.

This article will be updated again when the lockdowns are lifted and Europe’s citizens are allowed outside once more.

The original article, as updated on 16 March, is archived below.


As Covid-19 continues to spread in Europe and national and regional governments scramble to contain the outbreak, the concert business is watching developments closely.

With the situation changing constantly – and rapidly – across the continent, this pinned post is designed to be a reference point for live music professionals, outlining the status of Europe’s largest touring markets, including any known restrictions on staging concerts or other live events.

Anything out of date or incorrect? Email [email protected] to submit a correction or any additional information.


On Tuesday (10 March), the government in Germany – Europe’s largest live music market – recommended the banning both public and private events of more than 1,000 people in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

However, due to Germany’s federal structure, the guidelines – issued by a ‘crisis team’ comprising representatives of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) – cannot be legally binding nationwide, with local governments free to decide whether to implement the ban at a state level.

At the time of writing, 13 of Germany’s 16’s federal states, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt, Sleswick-Holstein and Thuringia, have announced they will comply with the federal government’s advice, with only Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony yet to confirm they will follow suit.

For all events with up fewer than 1,000 attendees, meanwhile, a risk assessment based on the criteria of the Robert Koch Institute (a German government agency responsible for disease control and prevention, subordinate to the BMG) should be carried out in partnership with local health authorities.

On 12 March, British prime minister Boris Johnson said his government was considering a ban on major events

Public health authorities in the UK stated earlier this month there are no plans to ban large-scale gatherings in the UK to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Based on biomathematical models of the virus’s spread, the guidance is that stopping events is not necessary, said deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, given that the principal places of infection are the home, schools and workplace.

However, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, has previously said he would not rule out banning large events should the situation in deteriorate; the number of cases in the UK jumped to 460 on 11 March, after the biggest rise in a single day.

The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, advised on 12 March that events with over 500 people be cancelled, but stopped short of ordering a ban.

In a press conference later the same day, British prime minister Boris Johnson said his government was considering a ban on major events, such as sporting fixtures – noting that while banning such events will have little effect on the spread, “there is the question of the added burden of such events can place on public services”.

Events judged to be “useful to the life of the nation” will be allowed to go ahead in France

All gatherings of more than 100 people are outlawed in France until at least 15 April, French prime minister Édouard Philippe announced on Friday 13 March. These new, more restrictive, regulations follow a previous ban of more than 1,000 people, announced by the Ministry of Health on Monday 9 March. The ban includes both indoor shows and open-air events.

A day later, on Saturday 14 March, Philippe announced the closure of all places “not essential to daily life”, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and petrol stations.

Events judged to be “useful to the life of the nation” (“utiles à la vie de la nation”) were formerly said (on 9 March) to be allowed to go ahead, though that now seems unlikely, and a list of events exempt from the ban has yet to materialise.

“No more nightlife. We can’t allow this”

Italy is the European country hit worst by the coronavirus (and second worldwide, after China), with more than 10,000 total cases and 600 deaths as of Wednesday 11 March. In response, prime minister Giuseppe Conte has instituted a nationwide lockdown, ordering Italians to stay at home and declaring Italy “a protected zone”.

“No more nightlife,” Conte said on Monday evening (9 March) while announcing the extension of the emergency measures. “We can’t allow this [nightlife events] any more, since they are occasions for contagion.”

Unsurprisingly, Italy’s €560 million live music market has taken a battering since the beginning of the crisis, with Vincenzo Spera, president of live music association Assomusica, estimating €10m was wiped off the value of the sector in late February alone. Collection society SIAE, meanwhile, says box-office receipts were down €23m in the week ending 1 March, of which -€4.1m came from concerts.

Spera has written to the prime minister to ask for support for the industry during the emergency measures, saying the cities due to host cancelled shows have also lost a collective €20m.

“We [have] underlined the seriousness of the situation, given that we represent one of the sectors most affected by this emergency, and yet we find there are still there are still no tools [forthcoming from government] that seem to recognise our reality,” he says.

“The risk, in particular, is that many companies and promoters, especially those active on a local or regional level, could suffer a rapid collapse.”

North Brabant has cancelled all live events and sporting fixtures with over 1,000 visitors

In a press conference on 12 March, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte announced the cancellation of all events with more than 100 people, as well as the closure of theatres, museums and sports venues.

All football and tennis matches have also been called off, though schools are to remain open.

Formerly, the Netherlands had not implemented a country-wide ban on large events, though several provinces and cities had implemented their own local restrictions.

Chief among them is North Brabant (home to the cities of Eindhoven, Tilburg, Breda and Den Bosch), which had cancelled all live events and sporting fixtures with over 1,000 visitors, including Eredivisie (Premier Division) football matches.

Business association MKB-Nederland – of which VNPF, the Association of Dutch Music Venues and Festivals, is a member – says it is “happy to cooperate, wherever possible” with authorities in North Brabant, which have also asked all workers to stay at home wherever possible – but is also in talks with the provincial government about “a package of extra measures in order to be able to maintain the liquidity of [its members] if the situation requires it.”

Other previously announced event cancellations in the Netherlands include Kingsworld, an EDM festival in the Hague set to take place on King’s Day (Koningsdag) on 27 April, and the final race of the Dutch Masters of Motocross, due to take place at the Zwarte Cross music festival in Lichtenvoorde in July.

The Russian government is grounding all flights from Italy, Germany, Spain and France

Compared to its neighbours in Europe and Asia, Russia has, at the time of writing, escaped the coronavirus outbreak relatively unscathed, with 28 cases (the majority recently returned from Italy) and no deaths.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it), the Russian government – which has set up an ‘operational headquarters’, overseen by the foreign ministry, in Moscow – has sprung into action in recent days, grounding all flights from Italy, Germany, Spain and France as of this Friday (13 March), as well as temporarily restricting the issuing of visas to Italians.

The government’s guidance stops short of cancelling live events altogether, although it does recommend a “reduction in the number of mass events” and, if possible, to hold events like sporting fixtures behind closed doors, as in France.

However, Moscow, at least, is off-limits for the time being: the city’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, said on 10 March that no events of more than 5,000 people are welcome in the Russian capital until 10 April, including “sports, entertainment, public and other mass events”.

“It must be in the form of a decision and not a recommendation”

Sweden reported its first death from Covid-19 on 11 March, and on the same day the government indicated it would outlaw public gatherings of more than 500 people, on the advice of the Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten).

“It is an infection protection measure which can have an effect on the situation we are in, and to be effective the measure should apply across the country,” said Johan Carlson, director-general of Folkhälsomyndigheten.

Government minister Per Bolund told Swedish public radio he intends to grant the agency’s request, with the ban expected to last for around two months.

Promoters’ association Svensk Live, which met with culture minister Amanda Lind on 11 March, says should the government implement Folkhälsomyndigheten’s plans, “it must be in the form of a decision and not a recommendation”, as “a recommendation would put the entire burden on the organiser on many difficult issues, and the organiser would be solely responsible for the consequences.”

A statement from the association adds that while it agrees public health is a priority, concert promoters “will need to be compensated [by government] in order to continue to run their businesses” during the shutdown.

“This Swiss events industry fears for its existence”

Switzerland became one of the first European countries to restrict gatherings over a certain size when it banned events with over 1,000 people on 28 February. The limit was lowered to 100 on Friday 13 March, and applies to all events, private or public.

In a media release the same day, the Swiss Music Promoters’ Association (SMPA) again called for financial support for the sector, saying many promoters fear for their existence, and urging the rapid drafting of a bill allowing for an aid package that “takes into account the special circumstances of the live entertainment industry”.

The Danish government has announced a fund designed to compensate those forced to cancel events

The Danish prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, said on 6 March that his government suggests events with more than 1,000 attendees, including concerts, sports events and trade shows, be cancelled or postponed. On 11 March, this recommendation was lowered to 100 people

According to industry association Dansk Live, the authorities expect the prime minister’s “invitation” to be complied with.

“I hope everyone will [be able] to see this from the perspective of society. I appeal to unity and patience,” said Frederiksen. “When we take these steps, it is to avert the potential loss of human life.”

The fact the decree is technically a ‘recommendation’ will be of little comfort to promoters, although the Danish government has announced a fund designed to compensate those who have been forced to cancel their events.

The compensation scheme will not cover all lost earnings, but is “reasonable”, according to minister of business Simon Kollerup.

“We still hope that the ‘invitation’ to move or cancel larger events will, in the long term, become an injunction, as this will solve many problems for organisers, including in their agreements with foreign artists,” comments Dansk Live’s Esben Marcher.

PM Erna Solberg has promised “the most radical measures Norway has taken in peacetime”

As in Denmark, the Norwegian government has recommended, rather than ordered, events over a certain size (in this case, 500 attendees) be called off. (This could, however, change on 12 March, with prime minister Erna Solberg promising to roll out “the most radical measures Norway has taken in peacetime”, including school closures, to control the spread of the virus.)

Complicating matters in Norway, says promoters’ association Norwegian Concert Organisers (NKA), are statements by the Consumer Council that suggest events organisers could be pressured to refund tickets, even when force majeure clauses in contracts would not have kicked in.

“There is a central distinction between recommendations and orders,” says an NKA statement. “In cases where there are regulatory restrictions based on the spread of, and danger from, the coronavirus, organisers can clearly invoke force majeure as a reason for postponing or cancelling concerts. A recommendation from the authorities does not in itself trigger force majeure.”

The association adds that if concerts are cancelled, “an amicable solution will have to be found with artists, musicians and other suppliers so that everyone’s losses are proportionately reduced.”

“There is a case of force majeure” in Austria

As of Monday 16 March, Austria has banned all gatherings of more than five people, with violation of the emergency rules punishable by a fine of up to €3,600. The country, which some of the most stringent anti-Covid 19 measures in Europe, previously outlawed all indoor events with over 100 attendees and outdoor events over 500 attendees.

“The day [would] come when we needed to take further measures to restrict public life – and now the time has come,” chancellor Sebastian Kurz told media. The restrictions, which also bar entry to Austria from Italy, will apply until at least 1 April.

Unlike with an ‘advisory’ ban, for promoters “there is a case of force majeure here”,  lawyer Wolfgang Renzl tells Music Austria. “On the part of the artist there is no obligation to perform, and on the part of the organiser there is no obligation to pay the fee.”

The penalty for not complying with the ban is a fine of € 1,450, along with damages should a concertgoer be infected with coronavirus.

The Belgian government has recommended promoters cancel indoor events with over 1,000 visitors

Belgium is currently a patchwork of regional bans and piecemeal cancellations in major cities, but has to institute a nationwide events ban.

In the coastal province of West Flanders, authorities are instituting a blanket ban on events with more than 1,000 people (with those under 1,000 subject to review on a case by case basis), and it’s a similar story in Brussels, Flemish Brabant and the province of Liège, with a ban place in place until at least 31 March, forcing festivals such as I Love the 90s and Schlagerfestival in Hasselt to cancel.

In Antwerp, meanwhile, the Sportpaleis and Lotto Arena have cancelled all shows, including the Script, Elbow and Maluma, until the end of March.

The Belgian government has recommended promoters cancel indoor events with over 1,000 visitors, though De Morgen reports many venues are finding creative ways to get around the official advice.

In Spain, several regional restrictions on mass gatherings are in place

The Association of Music Promoters (APM) has a full breakdown of the situation in Spain, where several regional restrictions on mass gatherings are in place:

  • Catalonia: Events with more than 1,000 attendees in open or closed spaces are cancelled as of 12 March. Other leisure or cultural events with fewer than a thousand people are reduced to a third of their capacity. The ban is initially for 15 calendar days, but may be extended
  • Community of Madrid: The same restrictions as in Catalonia, but valid for 15 days from 11 March
  • Galicia: The Galician government (‘xunta’) is limiting cultural, sports, social and other events held indoors to 1,000 people
  • La Rioja: The same as Madrid
  • Vitoria, Basque Country: All covered events with more than 1,000 attendees are cancelled until further notice, with other events reduced to a third of capacity
  • In Spain’s other autonomous communities (states/regions), events likely to attract large numbers of people will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by regional authorities


Photo © sarflondondunc on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


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