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Friday round-up: Omicron live music restrictions

Welcome to IQ’s Friday round-up of the latest restrictions affecting major international touring markets.

Below you’ll find the latest information on certification schemes, social distancing requirements, mask mandates, capacity restrictions and lockdowns affecting key live music markets around the globe.

Belgium
As of today (28 January), a ‘coronavirus barometer’ is in force in Belgium and the country will start in ‘code red’.

With the exception of nightclubs and dance halls, all indoor spaces belonging to the cultural, festive, sporting, recreational and events sectors may be opened to the public. Wearing a face mask remains mandatory in public areas.

For public events, a valid Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is required when there are more than 50 attendees indoors and 100 outdoors. If the event takes place outside with more than 1,000 people, attendees must be divided into cohorts.

If an event takes place with more than 200 people, the crowd must be limited to 70% of the total capacity of the place where the event takes place. However, if the indoor air quality target can be met during the event, this restriction does not apply.

Venues with more than 50 capacity are required to have an air quality meter (CO2) in the indoor areas accessible to the public.

The target value for indoor air quality is a flow rate of at least 40 m³/hour per person of ventilation and/or air purification or a maximum CO2 concentration of 900 ppm (parts per million).

The indoor air quality limit is a flow rate of 25 m³/hour per person for ventilation and/or air purification or a CO2 concentration of 1200 ppm.

In principle, the rules will apply until 27 April but the epidemiological conditions will be closely monitored and the measures will be evaluated at the next Consultative Committee.

Catalonia
Catalonia will begin to relax almost all restrictions from today (28 January) but nightclubs must remain closed.

The Covid passport will not be mandatory to access leisure and entertainment facilities, and cultural venues will no longer have a capacity limit.

However, at indoor events where there are more than 1,000 people, it is recommended that venues have a good ventilation system.

Denmark
Denmark’s live music business has cheered “a day to celebrate” after it became the first country in the EU to announce it is ending all coronavirus measures.

The country will no longer categorise Covid-19 as a “socially critical” illness from 5 February, with PM Mette Frederiksen telling citizens they will be able to look forward to “concerts and festivals again” this summer.

The authorities will remove restrictions from 1 February due to Denmark’s high (81%) vaccination rate and the Omicron variant appearing to be milder than previous variants. Despite a recent surge in infections, Covid-related hospitalisations remain low.

The Netherlands
The Dutch government has announced the reopening of the cultural sector, under certain conditions.

From 26 January, booked events are permitted to resume with a maximum of 1,250 visitors indoors and a maximum of one-third of the capacity in outdoor spaces.

However, access to music venues and cinemas will be restricted to those who have been vaccinated (geimpft), have recovered from Covid (gensesen) or have been tested against Covid (getestet) – otherwise known as the 3G model.

Attendees must also wear a face mask when walking around. Venues and events must adhere to a 22:00 curfew.

Nightclubs must remain closed and festivals and unplaced events will continue to be prohibited.

New Zealand
A ‘staggering’ number of major events across New Zealand have been cancelled and more are expected, following the country’s recent move to red in the Covid traffic light system.

From 23 January, indoor and outdoor events across the country are limited to 100 people and the use of vaccine passports is mandatory.

The move to red in the Covid traffic light system comes after a cluster of nine Omicron cases were recorded.

Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland announced that proof of Covid status will no longer be legally required for entry to bars, restaurants or cinemas from 26 January.

Indoor standing events are now permitted again and nightclubs, which were forced to close on 26 December, are allowed to open.

Covid passports will remain in use for access to nightclubs, as well as for indoor unseated and partially-seated events with 500 or more people in attendance.

Norway
The Norwegian government has rolled back restrictions and increased capacity limits for events.

From 21 January, there can be up to 1,500 people at indoor events with fixed seats. Where there are more than 200 people present, events can have a maximum of 50% capacity, divided into cohorts of up to 200 people. There must always be at least two metres distance between the cohorts.

For outdoor events with fixed seats, there can be up to 3,000 people. Where there are more than 500 people present, events can have a maximum of 50% capacity, divided into socially distanced cohorts of up to 500 people.

The government will review the measures at the beginning of February.

 


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Barcelona’s Cruïlla buoyed by test results

Cruïlla Festival organisers say Covid-secure live events should be permitted to go ahead “even in the worst pandemic conditions”, in response to data gleaned from its 2021 edition.

The Barcelona event took place from 8-10 July, with Catalonia in the midst of a fifth coronavirus wave triggered by the Delta variant. Masks were mandatory for attendees, but no social distancing was required, with entry dependent on a negative rapid Covid-19 test.

Cruïlla, headlined by Two Door Cinema Club, Editors, Morcheeba, Of Monsters and Men, went ahead using recommendations from the Love of Lesbian test concert.

Speaking at this week’s BIME PRO conference in Bilbao, Spain, festival director Jordi Herreruela said that while the study indicated the festival was responsible for 360 new cases of Covid, it had not been a super-spreader event.

“When the festival was held, the fifth wave began to decrease in impact and continued to decline after the festival,” said Herreruela. “We have had an impact, but we have not been the cause of a super transmission event.”

We did not generate the fifth wave, just as no musical event was the cause of the previous four waves

Moreover, 14% of the 40,340 ticket-holders no-showed the event and 292 were denied entry after testing positive during the screening process.

Data released by the Institut Català de Salut revealed 23.3% of attendees were fully vaccinated, 43.8% had a single dose and 22.4% were not yet vaccinated. In addition, 78% of infections occurred among unvaccinated festival-goers.

In conclusion, Herreruela said the findings highlighted that being vaccinated and wearing a mask were key factors in reducing the risk of transmission.

“We did not generate the fifth wave, [just] as no musical event was the cause of the four previous waves,” he added. “The health passport protocol, added to the use of the mask, must allow cultural, leisure and entertainment activities to remain alive even in the worst pandemic conditions.”

 


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Spain rolls out €3 million subsidy for venue operators

The Catalan government yesterday (26 August) announced a new subsidy of €3 million for venue operators in the region.

The fund will help operators mitigate the financial impact of the Covid-19 restrictions implemented during the first half of 2021.

This is the second subsidy of its kind and is almost double the initial €1,800,000 aid for venue operators.

In the new round of funding, the maximum limit of aid that operators can receive is increased to €350,000.

In order to be eligible, venue operators must prove a minimum expenditure of €4,000, as well as programming that includes at least 24 paid concerts between 14 March 2019 and 14 March 2020.

This is the second subsidy of its kind and is almost double the initial €1,800,000 aid for venue operators

Grants will vary depending on the capacity of the venue:

The Catalan government has also announced an €800,000 subsidy for the programming of live music events.

The funding, which applies to festivals, concert series and venue operators, can be used for all projects developed from 1 June 2020 that have ended between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021.

Festivals and concert series must have included a minimum of four concerts in Catalonia in order to be eligible. Venue operators must have hosted a minimum of 20 concerts with paid admission in order to apply. Applicants may receive up to €45,000.

 


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Results from Spain’s festival study published

The Catalan government says it has gleaned “valuable information” about how major events could take place in the future from a study of three festivals that took place in early July.

The three festivals – Cruïlla, Vida and Canet Rock – went ahead using recommendations from the Love of Lesbian test concert which they co-organised along with Primavera Sound (which organised the Primacov test), Sónar and Festival de Jazz de Barcelona.

All three festivals took place without social distancing and with attendees wearing mandatory FFP2 masks. Entry to the festivals was dependent on a negative result from a Covid-19 rapid test.

Despite finding a high number of infections among concertgoers, the department of culture says its study will prove highly beneficial when it comes to improving protocols and security measures for festivals.

The department’s study found that 2,279 attendees of the festivals contracted Covid-19 – 76% more than the cases recorded in a control group.

The department’s study found that 2,279 attendees of the festivals contracted Covid-19

The nearly 50,000 people who attended the events were compared to a control group with the same breakdown of age, sex, residence and immunity during the days the events took place.

The study found that 466 attendees of Vida, 956 of Canet Rock and 857 of Cruïlla tested positive for the coronavirus in the two weeks following the concerts.

In the control group, the number of cases detected on the same dates of the events was 197, 525 and 571, respectively.

The study expected that a maximum of 1,437 infections would be recorded after the festivals, but this was exceeded by 842, bringing the total number of cases to 2,279.

The government says a small percentage of the festivalgoers – 271 people – attended one of the events despite testing positive for the coronavirus beforehand, though it’s unclear how they were admitted.

The department also pointed out that previous pilots took place when there was a “much less transmissible variant” of Covid

The secretary of public health, Carmen Cabezas, defended the number of infections, explaining that in early July – and in a context of 8,000 cases a day – the festivals “were just one more factor among all those that occurred at that moment”.

In early July, Catalonia was grappling with the fifth coronavirus wave and contagion rates were already at high-risk levels.

The department also pointed out that previous pilots took place when there was a “much less transmissible variant” of Covid.

Currently, in Catalonia, concerts are allowed to take place with up to 1,000 people indoors and 3,000 outdoors or indoor spaces with enhanced ventilation, access control and prior seat allocation.

 


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Catalonia welcomes back three major festivals

Catalonia has hosted a triple whammy of festivals in the past fortnight, which will help determine the blueprint for how major events could take place in Spain going forward.

Cruïlla, Vida and Canet Rock took inspiration from 27 March’s Love of Lesbian test concert at the Palau Sant Jordi arena which they helped to organise, along with Primavera Sound (which organised the Primacov test), Sónar and Festival de Jazz de Barcelona.

In line with the recommendations from the test concert, all three festivals took place without social distancing and with attendees wearing mandatory FFP2 masks. Entry to the festivals was dependent on a negative result from a Covid-19 rapid test.

The festivals worked with the same medical partners behind the Love of Lesbian concert – the Germans Trias Hospital and Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation – and gained the approval of Catalonia’s Ministries of Health, Culture and Home Affairs.

Vida festival kicked off the week’s festivities with a three-day event in Vilanova de la Geltrú between 1–3 July that attracted a total of 27,200 attendees.

Typically, 30–40% of Vida’s line-up is international artists but this year the festival opted for an entirely domestic bill, with headline performances from Vetusta Morla, Nathy Peluso and Love of Lesbian.

“I believe that Barcelona is once again the centre of the world in terms of organising events and live music”

Catalonia’s festival frenzy continued with Canet Rock on 3 July, held from 6 pm to nearly 6 am, with an audience of 22,200 people.

The Canet de Mar-based festival also opted for a domestic-only line-up, featuring Doctor Prats, Oques Grasses, and Itaca Band.

Cruïlla rounded off the week with more than 50,000 attendees at the Parc del Fórum (also home to Primavera Barcelona).

The three-dayer took place between 8–10 July and was the only festival that opted for an international bill which including the Irish indie band Two Door Cinema Club.

“We have the feeling of total success, we can feel proud and happy, and we can get our chest out. I believe that Barcelona is once again the centre of the world in terms of organising events and live music,” says Jordi Herreula, Cruïlla.

“[Rapid Covid-19 screening] could become a solution that can be extended to the rest of society, however, the model is subject to improvements that we will outline in collaboration with the scientific community.”

 


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Barcelona: Sixth night of protests over jailed rapper

Barcelona has endured a sixth consecutive night of street protests, following the jailing of Catalan rapper, Pablo Hasél.

Hasél was arrested last Tuesday night (16 February) following a 24-hour stand-off in a university with dozens of supporters to avoid a prison sentence.

The artist, who is known for his radical leftist views, was sentenced to nine months in prison in 2018 under a security law known in Spain as the “gag law” for insulting the Spanish monarchy and praising terrorist violence in his music and on his Twitter account.

The rapper’s imprisonment has set off a major debate about free speech in Spain and sparked ongoing protests in Barcelona.

Last night, protestors in dark clothes marched through the city centre to the National Police headquarters and threw objects including rocks, bottles, rubbish and firecrackers at officers.

According to the police, around a thousand protesters took part in last night’s protest and seven arrests were made.

More than 200 artists have signed a petition against his jail term and calling for the ‘gag law’ to be changed.

Government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said that in response to the Hasel case, the government had “expressed its willingness to provide a much more secure framework for freedom of expression” and that the reform was in its early stages.

 


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Catalonia permits 500-cap. concerts

After eight months of closure, Catalonian venues are now permitted to reopen at 50% capacity with a maximum of 500 patrons.

The reopening comes as the autonomous community enters phase one of a rollback of restrictions, “despite living at a time of very high epidemiological risk”.

The curfew from 10 pm till 6 am will remain in place, though the Catalan Federation of Associations of Restoration and Musical Activities has asked the government to extend it to 1 am on weekends and at least until 2 am on New Year’s Eve.

The federation has also asked that the government reconsiders the restrictions for discos and nightclubs, which are still not permitted to reopen.

Catalonia’s plan for the reopening of activities includes four phases. If the infection rate allows, phase two will take effect from 7 December, phase three from 21 December and phase four from 4 January.

Discos and nightclubs are still not permitted to reopen

Phase two will permit concert halls to operate at 70% capacity but still with a maximum of 500 patrons – a restriction which will not change until after phase four.

Carmen Zapata, manager at The Association of Concert Halls of Catalonia (ASACC), told Catalan news agency ACN that the measure is “on the right track” and will have a positive “psychological” effect for dozens of venues that have been closed for many months.

However, according to Zapata, after surveying its 85 associates, the rooms that they plan to open from this Monday do not exceed 50%. In Barcelona, ​​he has specified, they will only open between 18 and 20.

Earlier this month the Catalonian government announced its first support package for the culture sector, totalling €8.4 million, to benefit companies, performers and live event technicians.

The package contains two lines of subsidies; the first will offer compensation for the operating costs of companies and cultural organisations affected by the pandemic and the second will compensate Catalonian artists who were hired for concerts or festivals, inside or outside the autonomous community, but ultimately could not perform due to cancellations.

 


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Catalonia rolls out €8.4m aid package for culture sector

The Catalonian government has announced its first support package for the culture sector, totalling €8.4 million, to benefit companies, performers and live event technicians.

The package contains two lines of subsidies; the first will offer compensation for the operating costs of companies and cultural organisations affected by the pandemic.

While the second will compensate Catalonian artists who were hired for concerts or festivals, inside or outside the autonomous community, but ultimately could not perform due to cancellations.

The maximum amount of the grant is established based on 40% of the fee for each cancelled concert or show that was planned within the framework of a music festival.

The government has also established a €3.6m aid for professionals and technicians in the live events sector who have been affected by the crisis and “could not benefit from the general coverage of the unemployment system due to the peculiarities of their profession, characterized especially by intermittence”.

Those who have had an income of up to €18,555 between January and September will be eligible for a €750 grant until 31 January.

“The cultural sector is a pillar of our society and therefore vital for the government”

The cultural sector is a pillar of our society and therefore vital for the government,” says prime minister Pedro Sánchez. “We expand the protection of your workers with new measures that will help alleviate the serious consequences of Covid-19. We will continue to defend culture, now more necessary than ever.”

The news comes after months of campaigning, which saw the Spanish production sector take to the streets for national and global #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protests, as well as benefit events such as Live Nation Spain’s ‘Crew Nation Presents…’ which raised more than €150,000 for touring crew and staff.

Elsewhere in Spain’s live music sector, struggling venues are preparing for a livestream event dubbed ‘The Last Concert?’ to highlight the severity of the situation facing the country’s cultural facilities, due to ‘lack of action and political will’ from the government.

At least 15 music venues have permanently closed already, according to AP Musicales.

Spain is currently operating under a six-month state of emergency, declared last week by the government, which is set to remain in force until 9 May 2021 with periodic reviews.

The decree will allow Spain’s regional governments to order an overnight curfew to run from 11 pm to 6 am, or to begin and finish an hour earlier or later.

Promoters including Live Nation Spain, Doctor Music, Madness Live and Producciones Animadas have commented on the new wave of measures for IQ.

 


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Spain: Catalonia increases concert hall capacities

Following the “red alert” protests which took place across Spain last week, the capacity of cultural spaces in Catalonia has been increased to 70% but will be capped at 1,000 visitors.

The increase from the 50% capacity limit, imposed in the wake of the pandemic, was approved yesterday by the Civil Protection Plan of Catalonia (Procicat).

The news measures will affect Barcelona and 15 municipalities in its metropolitan area, which include venues such as the Gran Teatre del Liceu (2,292), the Auditori ( 2,200), and the Palau de la Música (1,970) – all of which will be impinged by the 1,000-cap limit.

“The maximum number of [guests] leaves us the same as we were”

“That maximum number of spectators leaves us the same as we were. If we cannot put more than 1,000 people in the Liceu, we will stay close to that 50% that we already had,” Valentí Oviedo, general director of the Gran Teatre told El Periodico.

Robert Brufau, head of the Auditori, told El Periodico: “Subscribers have already been warned that it would be difficult to keep the seats that were historically reserved in Room 1. In Room 2, with 586 seats, a greater number of spectators will now be able to enter.”

Last week, some 16,000 live entertainment professionals took to the streets of Spain as part of the increasingly international #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protest movement.

Prominent buildings and venues in 28 cities were illuminated red to raise awareness of the state’s perceived lack of support for the sector during the coronavirus crisis.

 


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Outdoor events in Barcelona avoid renewed ban

Festival organisers, concert promoters and venue operators in Barcelona have managed to overturn new regulations that would have forced all events and venues to close down again amid an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Due to a recent spike in cases, Catalonian health minister Alba Vergés urged residents on Friday (18 July) to stay at home for the next 15 days and only go out to buy food, go to work or for health reasons. The government also announced that cinemas, theatres and nightclubs would once again be forced to close, with gatherings of over ten people banned.

The reintroduction of more stringent measures in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and in the province of Lleida follows previous stay-at-home orders that affected around 400,000 Catalans earlier this month.

In response to the announcement, representatives from Barcelona festivals including Festival Cruïlla, Festival Pedralbes and Grec Festival, as well as the the association of Catalan venues (Asociación de Salas de Conciertos de Cataluña – Assac), took to social media using the hashtag #CulturaEsSegura (Culture is safe) to protest the re-closing of venues and festivals throughout the region.

“95% of Asacc venues have been closed since March, with no programming scheduled due to the uncertainty of reopening dates. The few that have opened have done so with minimal capacities for musical performances,” reads a post on the Asacc Twitter page.

“We cannot place the responsibility of new outbreaks on venues and not keep track of street gatherings, raves, private parties and beach bars. Enough stigmatising of clubs, music and culture!

“Venues are not the origin of new outbreaks.”

Following the complaints, Catalan civil protection society Procicat (El Pla territorial de protecció civil de Catalunya) posted new guidelines, approving the carrying out of cultural events in “exceptional circumstances”.

“Venues are not the origin of new outbreaks”

According to the guidance, events in Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia are still permitted to go ahead provided they are in remote areas; take place outdoors; have previously been assessed and approved by Procicat; maintain social distancing; implement track and tracing systems; and take extra hygiene precautions.

It is also noted that organisers must be willing “to make maximum capacity requirements more flexible, if the health authorities require more restricted conditions.”

The exceptions allow for the Cruïlla XXS shows, over 200 open-air events organised by the Cruïlla Festival team, to go ahead this month, along with performances by Van Morrison, Diana Navarro and Paco Ibanez, as part of Fes Pedralbes. Barcelona’s Grec Festival is also taking place, with a programme of dance, theatre and music.

The Sala Barcelona concert series, which is taking place in the grounds of the Montjuïc Castle, has also been given the green light to host performances over the coming weeks. Upcoming concerts at the venue include DJs Ikram Bouloum and Santa Marts, pop band Los Retrovisores, folk group River Omelet and film score composer Niño de Elche.

However, the new restrictions saw the team at Barcelona festival Primavera Sound cancel the next two weeks of its Nits del Fórum series due to “the uncertainty provoked by contradictory recommendations and restrictions”.

“Despite complying with all the required safety requirements, despite being a concert series lauded by the authorities and despite the warm welcome received from fans over the past few weeks, Nits del Fórum has decided to take a break,” reads a Primavera Sound statement.

Organisers state they have voluntarily suspended activity until 31 July, in anticipation of “a clearer and more definite framework of limitations and recommendations for all”.

All affected concerts will be reprogrammed for new dates.

Elsewhere in Spain, outdoor events with up to 800 people are permitted, with concert series promoted by Live Nation and the Music Republic, as well as shows at the Wizink Center and Ifema exhibition centre taking place over the coming weeks.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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