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Weekly round-up: Omicron live music restrictions

Welcome to IQ’s weekly 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.

Australia
Australia has announced that it will reopen its borders to vaccinated tourists and other visa holders, from 21 February, for the first time in almost two years.

Australia has had some of the world’s strictest border controls throughout the pandemic – in March 2020, the government closed the borders and barred most foreigners from entering the country.

Belgium
Belgian ministers say the country is close to moving from red to orange on the barometer introduced a few weeks ago “but people still need to exercise caution”.

In orange, the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) is required for both indoor and outdoor events (with the option of requiring an extra rapid antigen test at the entrance for nightclubs).

There would be no enforced closing time for businesses, but the Consultative Committee can decide to limit the number of people allowed to 60-90% of a venue’s maximum capacity, depending on whether the air quality requirements can be guaranteed.

Additionally, crowd management is mandatory for events, and organisers have the option to compartmentalise the public. Air quality requirements will be made stricter than in code yellow.

The Finnish government has recommended that capacity restrictions be lifted as of 14 February

Canada
The Ontario government has limited concert venues to 50% capacity until at least 14 March – despite other entertainment spaces such as cinemas, casinos and restaurants expecting to be given the go-ahead to host full houses from 21 February.

Artists including Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and The Offspring have been forced to postpone tour dates due to provincial restrictions.

Canadian Live Music Association (CLMA) boss Erin Benjamin told The Canadian Press the policy was “really hard to understand”, and would likely deter other top international acts from visiting the country this year.

The CLMA is appealing for the government to extend relief for live music businesses via the Emergency Business Account (CEBA) and the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF).

Finland
The Finnish government has announced plans to roll back its Covid-19 restrictions from this month.

The government has recommended that capacity restrictions within the cultural, sports and event sectors be lifted as of 14 February.

From that day, any businesses that primarily serve alcohol will be allowed to serve until 22:00, and remain open until 23:00.

All restrictions on food and beverage service businesses could be lifted completely as of 1 March.

Following the recommendations of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) and the Ministry of Justice, Finland will no longer use Covid passes, at least for the time being. Event organisers and certain establishments were allowed to ignore Covid restrictions if they demanded customers present their Covid passes.

Germany will allow up to 10,000 spectators at major outdoor events

Germany
Germany will allow up to 10,000 spectators at major outdoor events, the 16 federal states agreed last Wednesday (2 February).

The decision, which also allows up to 4,000 participants in indoor spaces, aims to harmonise currently varying rules for stadium attendance at a state-by-state level. The new rules take effect as soon as the federal states update their regulation.

Masks must be worn, and proof of vaccination or recovery, as well as a booster shot or negative test status, depending on the state, will also be required.

Events that do not qualify as national major events with over 2,000 spectators still fall under state-specific rules.

Italy
Italy is about to enter a “new phase” of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to government ministers.

“In the coming weeks we will continue on this path of reopening,” says Prime Minister Mario Draghi. “Based on the scientific evidence, and continuing to follow the trend of the epidemiological curve, we will announce a calendar for overcoming the current restrictions”.

The next update on the country’s Covid restrictions is due by 10 February, when the outdoor mask mandate and the closure of nightclubs and dance venues are up for review again after both rules were recently extended.

The Italian green pass system itself is not expected to be scaled back anytime soon, with some experts including Walter Ricciardi, an advisor to the health minister, maintaining that it must stay in place over summer “at least”.

These rules can only remain in force however under the nationwide state of emergency, which creates the conditions for the government to pass new laws urgently by decree.

Italy’s state of emergency is currently set to expire on 31 March 2022. It is not yet known whether the government plans to extend it.

Sweden has become the latest European nation to announce it is lifting coronavirus restriction

Sweden
Sweden has become the latest European nation to announce it is lifting coronavirus restrictions.

On 9 February, capacity limits and vaccine certificates for live events will be discontinued, while the government also intends to lift entry restrictions for the Nordic countries.

Live events in the country have been subject to a capacity limit of 500 people (or 500 per section if the organiser divides the room so that people from different sections do not come into contact with each other).

The Swedish public health agency will also follow Denmark’s lead in submitting a request that Covid-19 should no longer be classified as a socially dangerous disease.

“It’s time to open up Sweden,” said prime minister Magdalena Andersson. “The pandemic isn’t over, but it is moving into a new phase.”

 


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UK markets announce plans to ease restrictions

Wales and Scotland have announced plans to roll back their Covid-19 restrictions.

In Scotland, restrictions on large outdoor events will come to an end on Monday 17 January.

The move will allow fans to return to outdoor concerts and football matches, after Covid restrictions were put in place on Boxing Day, reducing outdoor events to a capacity of 500.

Event organisers will now have to check the vaccine certification of at least 50% of attendees, rather than the current 20%, or at least 1,000 people, depending on which figure is higher.

From Monday the requirement to be ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of Covid certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.

It will still be possible to gain admission to events and venues covered by the certification scheme by providing proof of a recent negative lateral flow test, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Nightclubs have been closed since 26 December but the First Minister has said that all restrictions, including the closure of nightclubs, could be lifted from 24 January.

Scotland has said that all restrictions, including the closure of nightclubs, could be lifted from 24 January

In Wales, the First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced the relaxing of the rules and stated that the peak of the Omicron wave is now behind the country.

The relaxation will begin this Saturday (15 January) when the number of people allowed to attend an outdoor event will rise from 50 to 500.

From Friday 21 January, crowds will be allowed to return to sporting events and there will be no limits on those attending outdoor events.

From Friday 28 January, nightclubs can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally, although Covid passes will still be required for large events, cinemas, nightclubs and theatres.

From Thursday 10 February, Wales will return to a three-week review cycle as the country returns to alert level 0.

From 28 January, nightclubs in Wales can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally

Northern Ireland is also considering lifting some Covid-19 restrictions next week, First Minister Paul Givan has revealed.

Since 26 December, indoor standing events have not been permitted. For outdoor and indoor events, either proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test or proof of recovery from Covid-19 is required.

Nightclubs are currently closed while hospitality businesses are operating under a series of restrictions. Givan said businesses needed to be able to operate “normally”.

He added that relaxation would depend on health advice received by the executive ahead of its meeting next week, but stressed that so far the picture was “encouraging”.

In England, restrictions were last updated on 15 December, from which point vaccine passports and facemasks have been required in order to attend concerts.

The wearing of face masks is mandated in all venues where crowds gather, and Covid certificates are needed for: venues where large crowds gather, including nightclubs; unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people; and unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people.

The introduction of a negative LFT in the certification scheme, meanwhile, followed extended lobbying by the sector to include the measure in any new restrictions.

 


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UK report: Double vaccination rate higher in concertgoers

The double vaccination rate among UK concertgoers is substantially higher than in the country’s general population, according to a new report by Music Venue Trust (MVT).

More than three-quarters (76.3%) of people attending live music events in the UK were fully vaccinated, while just 61.3% of the general population received two jabs, it found at the time of data collection.

Furthermore, almost all UK concertgoers (91.6%) will have been fully vaccinated by the end of September if they complete their vaccination programme – again, substantially higher than predicted for the general population (77.9%).

According to the report, these statistics aren’t a coincidence; 91.3% of attendees had chosen to take an additional personal precaution such as double vaccination, testing or immunity to support their safety.

Despite a high vaccination rate among concertgoers, only 2.1% of live music fans wanted to see certified double vaccination as the sole mandatory condition of entry and 8.9% wanted to see mandatory certification of health status as a condition of entry to grassroots music venues.

Only 2.1% of live music fans wanted to see certified double vaccination as the sole mandatory condition of entry

A mix of mandatory certification options, displaying vaccination, testing or immunity, was more strongly supported by live music fans.

The findings are from a series of surveys and data collection exercises conducted by MVT during the first month of the full capacity reopening of grassroots music venues in the UK.

The audience survey recorded answers from 1,891 people who normally attended live music events prior to the Covid crisis.

While 221 grassroots music venues took part in a survey about the precautions they had taken around opening and the attendance at their events.

And 100 grassroots music venues were selected as representative of the sector, with case rates and transmission rates in their locality mapped to explore if the full capacity reopening of grassroots music venues had a discernible impact on local case rates.

In the local areas around a representative sample of 100 grassroots music venues, Covid-19 case rates declined by 39%

Notably, in the local areas around a representative sample of 100 grassroots music venues, Covid-19 case rates declined by 39%.

“The response from venues, artists and audiences to the Covid threat has been incredible,” says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.

“These survey results clearly demonstrate a will by the live music community to create safe spaces, to take personal responsibility for ourselves and each other, and to act to Reopen Every Venue Safely. It is particularly striking that local case and transmission rates around grassroots music venues, far from exponentially increasing as was predicted, have, in reality, exceeded the decline in rates witnessed nationally.”

Other findings from MVT’s report include:

 


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European promoters reveal plans for Covid policies

Live Nation, AEG Europe, CTS Eventim and DEAG/Kilimanjaro have outlined how they plan to approach Covid-19 entry requirements for live entertainment in European markets.

Earlier this week, Live Nation Entertainment announced that, from 4 October, it will require all artists, crew and fans to produce proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test to gain entry to its US venues and festivals.

Days later, Live Nation representatives confirmed that it plans to do the same in the UK – which is fully reopen – as well as Canada, which last week opened to fully vaccinated Americans and permanent residents.

As for other countries, IQ now understands that Live Nation will take a market-by-market approach based on local governments’ requirements –many of which already utilise Covid-status certification for entrance to public spaces.

IQ now understands that Live Nation will take a market-by-market approach based on local governments’ requirements

It was also announced last week that AEG Presents, AEG’s concert promotion division, will require all fans in the US to be vaccinated from 1 October.

Additionally, Anschutz Entertainment Group – including Goldenvoice/Coachella, ticket agency AXS and AEG’s owned sports teams – will mandate that all employees working at their US offices have had the vaccine, with “limited exceptions as required by law”.

However, AEG Europe “will be adopting an approach that is appropriate to the prevailing conditions and local health department and/or legislative requirements in each market,” COO, John Langford, reveals to IQ.

The live entertainment behemoth has already implemented a number of measures at its landmark venue, the O2 (cap. 21,000) in London.

In line with the advice and guidance from UK and local government, ticket holders are required to present an NHS Covid Pass on entry to the arena in order to gain access.

AEG Europe “will be adopting an approach that is appropriate to legislative requirements in each market”

This week saw the London arena back at full capacity for the first time since March 2020, welcoming 34,000 people to two shows by Gorillaz.

The show was promoted by UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live, which is backed by Berlin-based DEAG.

Peter Schwenkow, CEO of DEAG, says the UK is “by far the best country to promote shows at the moment,” but that the company has to handle different restrictions in all its territories, which includes Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“It very much depends on local authorities: For example, Bavaria is different to Berlin and Zurich different to Geneva,” he explains.

“Denmark is partly open, the rest of Scandinavia is currently still very complicated. Ireland continues to be problematic but the UK is by far the best country to promote shows at the moment; Kilimanjaro Live did two sold-out shows at the O2 last week with the Gorillaz. Generally, we do prefer the 3G rule: vaccinated, recovered or tested. Anybody else will not be allowed to work, stay backstage or even enter the venue,” he says.

“Generally, [DEAG] does prefer the 3G rule: vaccinated, recovered or tested”

European ticketing and promoting powerhouse CTS Eventim are taking a similar bespoke approach to Covid-19 safety measures. “In Germany, if concerts are allowed to take place, our promoters will develop individual concepts in close coordination with the local authorities in the various regions and the corresponding local regulations for the protection against Corona,” a representative tells IQ.

The ticketing services and live entertainment giant has interests in 21 countries including major markets such as Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK.

The Eventim Group includes concert, tour, and festival promoter companies for events like Rock am Ring, Rock im Park, Hurricane, Southside, and Lucca Summer.

And CTS Eventim’s venue portfolio includes the Lanxess Arena (cap. 18,000) in Cologne, the KB Hallen (4,500) in Copenhagen, the Waldbühne (22,290) in Berlin and the Eventim Apollo (2,500) in London.

 


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LA to require masks at all outdoor events

The Los Angeles county department of public health has issued a new order stating that attendees of any major outdoor event will be required to wear a mask – regardless of Covid-19 vaccination status – due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.

From 23:59 on Thursday 19 August, the county’s order will apply to all events with more than 10,000 attendees, such as music or food festivals, car shows, large endurance events, marathons, parades, sporting events and concerts.

The order is to be enforced by the operators of any such event, both verbally and with visible signage at all entry points.

Masks are required to be worn by everyone at all times except when actively eating or drinking at these events, according to the order.

The county order comes after orders issued in July, which reinstated an indoor mask mandate for most public spaces

Head in the Clouds festival, which is set to take place at Brookside at the Rose Bowl 6–7 November is one of the few major music festivals scheduled to take place in LA for the remainder of 2021. But the order will also affect larger venues including the Hollywood Bowl, SoFi Stadium and the Banc of California Stadium, as well as sports venues.

The county order comes after orders issued in July, which reinstated an indoor mask mandate for most public spaces, applying to both major events (defined as those with 5,000 or more attendees) as well as smaller spaces such as restaurants, movie theatres and gyms.

The public health department said that the Delta variant of Covid-19, which is twice as contagious as earlier variants of the virus, is now predominant in LA county. On 16 August, the LA County Public Health reported 2,426 new cases of Covid-19, 1,653 current hospitalisations and five new deaths.

 


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