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England to scrap all remaining Covid restrictions

The English live music industry has welcomed the government’s plans to lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Prime minister Boris Johnson today (21 February) announced the ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan which will put an end to self-isolation and free testing.

From Thursday (25 February), the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive Covid test will be removed in England.

Meanwhile, free Covid testing – which has reportedly cost £15.7 billion – will end for the general public in England from 1 April.

The PM says restrictions can be lifted now because the levels of immunity are high and deaths are low.

“This is not back to business as usual for festivals and it is not a case of ‘job done’ for ministers”

The live music industry has hailed the end of Covid-19 restrictions as a “huge relief” but warns that ongoing support from the government is needed.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), says: “While we welcome legal restrictions around Covid-19 coming to an end and the prospect of a full capacity festival season, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt by the independent festival sector and the need for government action remains. With festival organisers facing crippling cost increases of up to 30% across operations and infrastructure, this is not back to business as usual for festivals and it is not a case of ‘job done’ for ministers.

“AIF reiterates its call for ongoing support from government in the form of continued VAT relief on festival tickets to maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March; and to also explore some form of government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.”

Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE says: “The end of Covid-19 restrictions represents a huge, welcome relief to the live music sector, which lost billions in revenue throughout the pandemic. But with spiralling costs and thousands of companies struggling with pandemic debt, it’s crucial that government does not abandon and set the sector adrift, just as it starts to tread water again.

“We are calling for a reverse to the planned hike in VAT rates and the imminent end to business rates relief in order to avoid further business closures and job losses within our sector.”

“The extension of VAT & Business rates relief remains a key ask”

Michael Kill, CEO of NTIA, says: “The withdrawal of the remaining covid restrictions is welcomed by the industry, and will further support business recovery and go some way to regaining customer confidence.

“Our responsibility to keep customers and staff safe remains our focus, maintaining baseline mitigations as we have done since the 19th July 2021.

“Experts have suggested that recovery to pre covid trading levels will take several years, but we cannot lose sight of the short term role that the government must continue to play in supporting the sector, beginning with the chancellor’s budget in March.

“The extension of VAT & Business rates relief remains a key ask, allowing businesses the financial headroom to survive, on this long road to recovery.

“Given the commitment and support, over the last two years, that the sector has given to the government’s public health strategy, it is only right that they recognise and support the hardest-hit industries through the final phase of this crisis.”

Greg Marshall, general manager of Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), says: “AFEM welcomes the end of all legal Covid-19 regulations and the move to guidance announced in the UK today. However, the fragility of the chain of businesses and individuals which make up the electronic music club and events ecosystem needs to be recognised. Ongoing support measures will be required to ensure the recovery of this sector, in parallel with industry action to build consumer confidence and ensure a return of audience numbers to all event types in the long term”.

England follows in the footsteps of DenmarkSweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland – all of which have recently announced plans to lift all remaining restrictions.

 


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No new infections from Clubculture Reboot Berlin

The organisers of Berlin’s Clubculture Reboot have welcomed what they describe as positive interim results from the recent pilot event series, which saw around 2,000 people attend indoor club nights at six venues after taking PCR tests for Covid-19.

According to Clubcomission, the association which organised the event alongside the Berlin Senate’s department for culture and the Charité hospital, there were zero new infections as a result of the event, proving once again that “dance [music] events may be held safely even under pandemic conditions”.

Participants in Clubculture Reboot, which took place from 6–8 August across six Berlin clubs, needed to produce a negative PCR test to gain entry, as opposed to the rapid lateral-flow/antigen tests more commonly used for concerts and festivals.

All clubgoers, regardless of their vaccination status, had to go undergo a PCR test – the ‘swab test’ which is more accurate than a rapid test, but which takes at least 24 hours to return its results – at one of three designated test centres in the 48 hours leading up to the weekend’s events.

“The project offers real [guidelines] for the opening of clubs, even if infections and hospitalisations rise sharply in autumn”

Of the 2,110 people who were tested pre-event, seven were turned away after testing positive, and all attendees who submitted to follow-up PCR test (1,447 people, or almost 70%) tested negative for the virus. While the full results are expected at the end of the month, the interim findings are welcome, says Clubcommissionc chair Pamela Schobeß: “The project offers real perspective for the opening of clubs, even if incidences [of Covid-19] and hospitalisations rise sharply in autumn.

“It proves that with this method, safe spaces can be created that make it possible to bring club culture to life even in a pandemic.”

Dr Florian Kainzinger, who designed the testing process, adds: “With this project we were able to show that PCR tests can also be implemented in a very short period of time from sampling to transmission of results. This enables new perspectives for a safe reopening even in high-risk areas.”

 


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Germany’s Fusion ploughs ahead with testing plan

Germany’s Fusion Festival is determined to forge ahead with its 2021 edition by following an extensive testing plan, which is currently being examined by authorities.

The organisers hope to host 35,000 visitors between 24–27 June and 1–4 July at the Mecklenburg Lake District in Lärz, using their ‘innovative strategy of PCR mass testing’.

The strategy would require all ticket holders to take two PCR tests – one on the day before arrival and one during the festival.

In order to do this, the organisers plan to set up preliminary testing stations and laboratories in Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig for attendees on the way to the festival.

There, a sample batch will be evaluated in the laboratory within 70–90 minutes and the results are transmitted to the Fusion Festival’s ticket system before attendees’ arrival.

Alternatively, festivalgoers can be tested at the festival’s Lärz centre, in the southeastern area of ​​the airfield, which could test up to 15,000 visitors within twelve hours.

The Lärz test centre will also have parking spaces, as well as waiting areas for those arriving on the shuttle bus, where attendees can wait for up to 90 minutes for the results of their test.

The festival has since raised the ticket price from €130 to €220 due to the cost of mass testing

Only those who test negative will be permitted to enter the festival and those who are attending both days will be required to take another PCR test on the Sunday morning. If the result is negative, the access wristbands will be reactivated. Festival employees will have to follow a similar protocol.

Social distancing and mask wearing will not be mandatory, according to the testing plan, and the organisers have also said that they may consider proof of vaccination upon entry to relieve the PCR testing facilities.

Last year, the organisers made the decision to split the festival over two weekends and have half as many visitors at a time. The festival has since raised the ticket price from €130 to €220 due to the cost of mass testing.

In a statement on the festival’s website, the organisers explain the hike in price: “This concept was not included in the calculation [of the festival]. In contrast to profit-oriented organisers, we don’t want to spare any costs or efforts to make the merger possible and to fight for freedoms. We don’t yet know whether or how it will refinance in the end, but we firmly believe that this will not fail because of the money.

“We ask politicians to actively promote and financially support progressive test concepts like the one we have developed. Culture in pandemic times needs state funding. The federal and state governments have slept through innovative test strategies so far. Massive PCR tests are more sustainable for festivals than the often promised compensation for downtime costs.”

Read Fusion Festival’s full testing plan and FAQs here.

 


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