Vaccine passports to be introduced in England
Vaccine passports and facemasks will be required in order to attend concerts in England as part of tougher restrictions unveiled by the government in response to the Omicron variant.
Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference in Downing Street, prime minister Boris Johnson said the rapid increase in infections meant it was necessary to implement its “Plan B” measures to combat the spread of the virus.
The new rules, he said, would “help to keep these events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others”.
From next Wednesday (15 December), the wearing of face masks will be mandated in all venues where crowds gather, and Covid certificates will be needed for:
* Venues where large crowds gather, including nightclubs
* Unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people
* Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
The introduction of a negative LFT in the certification scheme follows extended lobbying by the sector to include the measure in any new restrictions. Earlier this week the Scottish government also added LFTs to their own rules.
Johnson added that, “The NHS Covid Pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out.”
The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard
Reacting to the announcement, a spokesperson for music trade body LIVE said: “The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their Covid-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification.
“Across the country, music venues and events already have tried, tested and workable systems in place to ensure that live events continue to be safe – and these remain effective. However, after such a prolonged closure throughout the pandemic it is important the industry is able to remain open and that the government have listened to the industry and included the use of lateral flow testing in covid certification.”
The botched rollout of Scotland’s vaccine passport app earlier this autumn cost venues £250,000 a week, according to the Music Venue Trust.
The Scottish Music Venues Alliance reported a 39% dip in business per week, amounting to £249,471.23, since vaccine certification became mandatory for large events and nightclubs on 1 October, while a vast majority of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app.
Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on night-time economy businesses
Mark Davyd, CEO Music Venue Trust, says: “Whilst this is obviously a blow to the progress in the battle against the virus, we are pleased that the government has listened to the grassroots music venue sector and adopted a Covid Pass policy that recognises testing and applies to larger gatherings – those venues operating at above 500 capacity.
“MVT’s #TakeaTest policy has been extremely successful in limiting infection incidents in grassroots music venues, and we welcome the announcement that this has been recognised in the new policy. Regardless of the size of the event you are attending, we continue to urge music lovers to #TakeaTest”.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-time Industries Association (NTIA), adds: “Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on night-time economy businesses, as we seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented. Trade is down 30% in Scotland and 26% in Wales following their implementation.
“The UK government have twice ruled out vaccine passports before twice changing their mind. The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging vaccine passports are to be implemented.”
Check out the latest information on certification schemes, social distancing requirements, mask mandates, capacity restrictions and lockdowns affecting key European markets here.
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Scots vaccine passport ‘costing biz £250k a week’
The botched rollout of Scotland’s vaccine passport app is costing venues £250,000 a week, according to the Music Venue Trust (MVT).
The Scottish Music Venues Alliance (SMVA) has reported a 39% dip in business per week, amounting to £249,471.23, since vaccine certification became mandatory for large events and nightclubs on 1 October.
A vast majority of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app, says the events sector.
With the weekly turnover for SMVA members totalling just under £640,000, the drop represents a loss of more than £712,770 over the first two weeks of the month. Venues stand to lose almost £2 million from an eight-week downturn. MVT CEO Mark Davyd describes the figures as “terrible”.
“We told [the government] very clearly that if they went down a vaccine-only passport route, there would need to be financial compensation for the people who have to deliver it, and they didn’t do that,” Davyd tells IQ. “They waited to see what would happen. And what’s happened is £700,000 has already been lost, £250,000 a week is being lost and is going to carry on being lost while they still pursue this policy.”
Scottish venues reported high levels of customer frustration over the lack of information from government and the chaotic rollout of the app. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said NHS Scotland systems were to blame for the troubled launch rather than the app itself.
Davyd says a BRIA [Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment] put out by the authorities after implementation contained no financial assumptions.
“It merely noted that only 62% of 18 to 29-year-olds were actually double vaccinated,” he says. “Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that 18 to 29-year-olds are a very large percentage of the audience that goes to grassroots music venues. And therefore 38% of them can no longer get into a grassroots music venue.”
This is having no impact whatsoever on transmission rates
A third of ticket holders over the first two weeks did not attend, while 27% of customers were refused entry due to lack of evidence of full certification. Furthermore, 61% of punters would have been refused entry had venues strictly implemented the full terms of the restrictions, which became enforceable by law on Monday (15 October).
“To be very clear, this is having no impact whatsoever on transmission rates,” says Davyd. “All it’s doing is driving customers out of a very specific part of the economy and putting them somewhere else where they [don’t require] a vaccine passport.
“Transmission isn’t taking place in grassroots music venues, they’re actually doing really, really good risk management. They’re doing great studies, they’re really working hard on safety. This was a thing that, if they wanted to do it, they needed to do it a much, much wider basis so they didn’t get market distortion. It’s the Scottish government’s job to sort that out now.”
On what happens next, Davyd says that the £6m earmarked by the Scottish government to help the domestic events sector recover from the pandemic remains untouched, with a meeting on how to distribute it planned for late this month.
“They now need to spend it to make sure the grassroots music venues are not closed by a policy that really needed a great deal more work before it was implemented,” he adds.
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NZ organisers welcome vaccine passport mandate
New Zealand festival promoters have welcomed plans for a vaccine passport, saying it gives them certainty to plan major events this summer.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced plans on Tuesday (5 October) for a vaccine certificate system that could be operational by November.
Arden said the government is looking to mandate its use for large festivals, and that festivalgoers will need to get vaccinated this month if they want to go to such events over the summer.
Once available, the vaccine certificate can be printed out or displayed on a mobile phone. A beta version is already available.
Hamish Pinkham, director of Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines Music Festival, told Stuff that the vaccine certificate was good news for promoters and would give him the clarity he needed to run the December event.
“It makes sense that we follow the overseas success in this area.”
Callam Mitchell, director of event production company Team Event, which runs five major events in Christchurch including Electric Avenue in February, says the certificate system means they could plan events with confidence.
“We encourage everyone who wants to attend events this summer to get vaccinated as soon as possible, bearing in mind it’s an eight-week period between doses and the vaccine becoming effective,” says Mitchell.
Bay Dreams director Mitch Lowe, who runs two events set for early January in Nelson and Tauranga, also welcomed the vaccine certificate: “It makes sense that we follow the overseas success in this area.”
New Zealand is on pace to fully vaccinate about 90% of its eligible population by the end of November.
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Live Nation set to get Canada ‘back on touring map’
Canada is welcoming US artists to perform on the country’s stages for the first time in 18 months.
Vaccinated Americans and permanent residents are now able to cross the Canadian border for the first time since closing on 18 March 2020.
“This step opens possibilities to get Canada back on the touring map for sure. Some artists already have shows planned with more conversations picking up,” says Arthur Fogel, chairman of global touring for Live Nation.
Live Nation Canada’s first concert with major US acts will be on 2 September with Maroon 5 and Blackbear at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto. This will make the artists the first major US acts to play in the country since reopening.
This week, Live Nation Canada announced plans to require all artists and fans to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test to attend shows at the company’s stable of owned and operated Canadian venues.
The mandate is set to come into effect from no later than 4 October at Live Nation Canada’s outdoor venues and festivals, including Budweiser Stage (Toronto), History (Toronto), The Danforth Music Hall (Toronto), Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver), Midway (Edmonton), and The Velvet Underground (Toronto).
“Some artists already have shows planned [in Canada] with more conversations picking up”
The live entertainment behemoth is also sharing best practices for artists to request these policies at third-party venues where Live Nation promotes shows but does not control protocols.
“Live Nation and the live music industry are about uniting people, and vaccines are one of the greatest tools for making sure that everyone can continue to enjoy live music together,” said Wayne Zronik, president business operations, Live Nation Canada.
“We’re confident this is the right move for everyone coming out to shows, including artists, fans, crew, and our staff.”
Live Nation has announced similar entry requirements for markets including the UK and the US. IQ also understands that the promoter 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.
LN to require Covid-status certification for all US shows
Live Nation will, from 4 October, 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.
The company’s CEO, Michael Rapino, had previously told Live Nation staff that it would be the artist’s choice as to whether they require concertgoers and venue staff to be vaccinated. However, in a statement released late on Friday (Saturday morning UK time), Rapino said artists would also be included in mandatory Covid-status certification at Live Nation-owned venues and festivals in the United States.
“Vaccines are going to be your ticket back to shows, and as of 4 October we will be following the model we developed for Lollapalooza and requiring this for artists, fans and employees at Live Nation venues and festivals everywhere possible in the US,” says Rapino.
The announcement brings Live Nation, the world’s biggest concert promoter, into line with its global rival AEG Presents, which announced earlier in the day that it would require all attendees to its venues to be vaccinated (or show a negative Covid-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours) from 1 October, where permitted by law. (Some states have passed legal restrictions on so-called ‘vaccine passports’ certifying consumers’ vaccination status.)
“We will be following the model we developed for Lollapalooza and requiring this for artists, fans and employees at Live Nation venues and festivals”
Both Live Nation and AEG had already confirmed that all full-time staff at their US offices would need to be vaccinated before returning to work.
While Live Nation will only be able to enforce Covid-status certification at their own venues and events, a spokesperson says the company “has also developed best practices for artists to request these policies at third-party venues” owned or managed by other venue operators.
Similarly, AEG Presents’ vaccine mandate will only apply to its “owned and operated clubs, theatres and festivals”, though the company says it hopes artists, where they have the choice, will follow the promoters’ lead on certification.
“Certain states’ regulations may override our mandate, or a few artists may not want to immediately get on board with the plan, but we know that using our platform to take a strong position on vaccinations can make an impact,” says Shawn Trell, COO and general counsel of AEG Presents. “The message we want to send is simple and clear: the only way to be as safe as possible is to require everyone to be vaccinated. And we’re confident that others who haven’t been ready to make this full commitment yet will follow our lead.”
Belgium introduces Covid Safe Ticket
The Belgian federal government has launched its Covid Safe Ticket, a domestic health pass which will certify the Covid-19 status of attendees to major entertainment and sports events.
The Covid Safe Ticket (CTS) may be used for events of over 1,500 people to certify that all attendees are either fully vaccinated or have returned a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours. The pass, originally planned to be introduced on 1 July, will apply to outdoor events from 13 August and indoor events from 1 September.
While the ‘safe ticket’ eliminates the need for social distancing, promoters must implement a crowd management plan, as well as ensuring adequate ventilation (in the case of indoor shows) which is measured by a CO2 meter, according to the Belgian government.
Covid Safe Tickets are not mandatory – event organisers are free to put on shows without it – but non-safe ticketed events must comply with social distancing regulations and ensure all guests wear a mask, according to Flemish prime minister Jan Jambon.
“The CST works in the same way as the EU Digital Covid Certificate. Both certificates use QR codes that appear on your smartphone”
Explaining how the CST works, Barbara Van Den Haute, of Digital Flanders, says: “The CST works in the same way as the EU Digital Covid Certificate. Both certificates use QR codes that appear on your smartphone via the CovidSafeBE app.
“The CST will colour red if your negative PCR test is older than 48 hours if you are checked entering an event, while at the airport the same code will colour green allowing you to travel.”
Unlike France’s pass sanitaire, the Covid Safe Ticket is specifically for live events and cannot be used for entry to shopping centres, care centres, bars, restaurants or other hospitality establishments, the Brussels Times reports.
The Belgian grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps has already confirmed it will use the CST for its 2021 event (27–29 August); festivals and Belgium’s other remaining large summer events are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.
New York mega-concerts lead US return to live music
Plans are underway for a summer concert for 60,000 people in New York’s Central Park, as the United States increasingly takes the global lead on the return to normality for the live music industry.
The open-air event, announced yesterday (7 June) by New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, will bring together eight “iconic” musicians for a three-hour show which will also be broadcast on television across the globe, the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, the show is provisionally set for 21 August, forming part of a ‘Homecoming Week’ of events in New York city. The concert is being coordinated by promoter Clive Davis, 89, with Live Nation also involved in the production.
Provisionally titled ‘The Official NYC Homecoming Concert in Central Park’, the majority of tickets for the concert will be free, though Davis tells the Times there will also be limited VIP tickets available.
De Blasio told a press conference the New York-heavy line-up will bring together some of the world’s biggest stars. “I turned to Clive, I said, ‘I need the biggest, most extraordinary all-star line-up you can put together, heavy on New York artists.’ He said, ‘I’m on it,’” the New York Post reports. “Get ready for an unforgettable week, a once-in-a-lifetime concert and a moment that really says ‘New York City’s back’.”
According to Reuters, the concert is expected to have both vaccinated and unvaccinated sections, with about 70% of tickets going to fans vaccinated against Covid-19.
“We are excited to finally welcome a packed house of roaring, fully vaccinated fans”
Elsewhere in New York, iconic arena Madison Square Garden (MSG) announced today (8 June) that Foo Fighters will this month play the venue’s first concert since March 2020, with a full-capacity show set to the fill the 20,000-capacity Garden on 21 June.
According to MSG Entertainment CEO James Dolan, the landmark show is open only to fans who have been ‘fully vaccinated’ (ie two doses or the Pfizer and Moderna, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson, jabs) against Covid-19.
“The Garden is ready to rock,” says Dolan. “We’ve been waiting for this moment for 15 months and are excited to finally welcome a packed house of roaring, fully vaccinated Foo Fighters fans to Madison Square Garden.”
The New York concerts are the latest sign that parts of the US are gearing up for full-capacity shows from summer onwards, with festival favourites such as Chicago’s Lollapalooza (29 July–1 August), Tennessee’s Bonnaroo (2–5 September) and Governors Ball (24–26 September) in New York all betting on being allowed to go ahead in 2021, the latter pair having already postponed to later in the year.
And it’s not only festivals banking on a return to business as usual in 2021: Tour announcements have been coming thick and fast in recent days, with new or rescheduled US treks by the likes of Foo Fighters, Guns N’ Roses, King Crimson, Eagles, Kesha, Deadmaus and Kings of Leon kicking off in the months ahead.
Kesha, whose Kesha Live tour, featuring Betty Who, begins at the First Interstate Arena in Billings, Montana, on 13 August, says in a statement: “It’s time to celebrate the fact that we got through the past 14 months – holy shit.” She adds: “Thank god. Let’s party.”
Legal experts liken proof of vaccination to a ’no shirt, no shoes, no service’ policy
As in Central Park and MSG, permission to party will, in many places, be granted only to fans who can prove they are Covid-19 negative. Lollapalooza, for example, will require either proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test for entry – as did Florida’s popular SOBEWFF (South Beach Wine and Food Festival) until the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis, legally prohibited Floridian businesses from doing so by signing an executive order banning so-called vaccine passports.
“Under no circumstances will the state be asking you to show proof of vaccination,” said DeSantis last month, “and I don’t think private companies should be doing that either. If you want to go to an event, go to an event. If you don’t, don’t. But to be requiring people to provide all this proof, that’s not how you get society back to normal.”
While DeSantis is known for his outspokenness, he isn’t alone in opposing vaccinated-only concerts; the vaccine ‘passport’ issue has become politicised in the US, with Republican governors in states including Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Iowa vocally opposed to restricting access to certain spaces to people who have had the vaccine, posing a logistical headache for tour organisers.
Kim Reynolds, governor of Iowa, has said a system of Covid-status certification would create a “two-tiered society” divided between the have (had the vaccine)s and have-nots. “I strongly oppose vaccine passports, and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them, which I intend to do either through legislation or executive action,” she said.
The US government, however, has said it will leave the decision to private businesses, which – outside of states where an anti-‘passport’ law is in place – are free to require their customers show proof of their Covid-19 vaccine. According to USA Today, “legal experts have likened the requirement to a ’no shirt, no shoes, no service’ policy”.
While it remains to be seen to what extent vaccine certificates are embraced by other US promoters, venues and sports teams, MSG’s Dolan is convinced of their merit both in keeping patrons safe and encouraging others to get their jab. Championing a recent double sell-out for two New York Knicks basketball games at the Garden, he said: “I hope everyone in sports and entertainment is listening because the public has spoken – they are fine with getting vaccinated and want to get back to the experiences they love.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Spanish developers bring Covid-safe app to market
A new ticketing services operation based in Barcelona claims to be attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest live event companies, thanks to its ability to include health record details of fans as part of their pass to attend shows.
Barcelona-based TiketBlok says it has developed an app that makes it possible to identify everyone who attends a major event through their mobile phones. The app also allows event organisers to establish a communications channel with those attendees, as well as including identity and health certification within the ticket itself.
TiketBlok has already trialled its system successfully at a Manel concert on 21 May in Gerona, where 1,000 people gathered without social distancing after passing an antigen test. The company also says it has attracted the attention of Live Nation, the WiZink Center in Madrid and opera houses in Vienna.
“Our tool allows venues and event organisers to identify every single attendee, communicate with them and certify their identity and health status, says TiketBlok managing director Javier de Esteban, adding that for the Manel concert in Gerona’s Sala La Mirona venue, more than 5,000 notifications were sent to attendees via SMS, email or through the app itself.
TiketBlok trialled its system successfully at a concert with 1,000 people without social distancing
He continues, “Our app works as a ‘smart wallet’ so all attendees have to enter the venue with their own app: One phone, one ticket. This is how we identify the whole audience, and how we are able to communicate with them anytime in real time. We also include the identity certification through a biometric analysis of the attendee ID or passport and the health status.”
TiketBlok can integrate the AOKpass health certificate – a Covid-free certification project backed by the International Chamber of Commerce, International SOS and SGS Group – into its tickets. The company says it connects with official health certificate issuers to include on the ticket itself whether the ticket holder has passed a pre-event antigen test or has had a certified vaccination.
Company MD de Esteban adds, “The best part is that we are system agnostic. It doesn’t matter who sold the tickets, you can use TiketBlok to manage the tickets and the access.”
Fest gets green light for full-capacity festival
Poland’s Fest Festival has been given permission to go ahead as planned, without any capacity limits, provided that attendees have had their Covid-19 vaccinations.
The event, which is scheduled to happen 11–14 August in Chorzów, has been told it can go ahead after the Polish government announced an easing of certain pandemic restrictions.
During a press conference last week, the Polish minister of health confirmed the information that people vaccinated against Covid-19 do not count towards the established limits applicable during mass events.
“We are leading conversations to extend the current restrictions so that festivalgoers who own a European certificate can also enjoy this year’s edition”
Fest Festival launched in 2019 as a multi-genre event and enjoyed a successful debut when more than 30,000 people attended the gathering. The 2021 edition has been extended to four days and organisers have so far confirmed acts such as Kygo, James Bay, Rag’n’Bone Man and Alan Walker on the bill.
However, Follow the Step Agency has pledged to try to open the gates for others. “As per today, the festival can only be held for vaccinated people,” says Fest’s promoter.
“Considering the fact that it’s not a perfect solution, [we] are leading conversations […] to extend the current restrictions so that festivalgoers who own a valid European certificate – available for free for [Covid] convalescents, people tested and vaccinated with the first dose – can also enjoy this year’s edition of Fest Festival.”
UAE will require proof of vaccination for live events
Venues in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will only be permitted to admit fans who are vaccinated against Covid-19 when full-capacity shows return, the country’s ministry of health has said.
The policy, which comes into force this Sunday (6 June), will apply to all live events, including cultural, sports and arts activities, in the Gulf state, Reuters reports. As an extra safeguard, all attendees will be required to produce a negative PCR test taken at least 48 hours before the event.
The UAE is home to two key touring markets, the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as a thriving tourism industry. As of 17 May, Dubai has allowed full-capacity concerts and sports events where all attendees have been vaccinated.
As IQ reported last week, the issue of requiring vaccination status in order to attend a show has split the live music industry, with less strict approach that would also allow a negative Covid-19 test (or proof of immunity) suggested as a non-discriminatory alternative.
Along with Israel, the UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with nearly 13 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine (out of a population of 9.8m) having been given as of 29 May.