| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Trials to begin for return of England mass events

The government is to trial a series of measures in England, including Covid passports, to allow the safe return of sports matches, events and nightclubs.

Passes would show if a person had been vaccinated, had a recent negative test, or natural immunity.

Trial events in the coming months will also explore how ventilation and testing before and after could help crowds return.

Any use of passes would be “time-limited”, the sports minister has said.

The pilots, which will include the FA Cup final, will last until mid-May, and some of the listed events will not be trialling vaccination certification, including those taking place in Liverpool.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston described the trials as a “learning experience”, saying no decisions had yet been made on processes or vaccination certificates.

He said the earlier pilots “almost certainly won’t involve any element of certification”, and that the government would also be looking at mitigations such as one way systems and hygiene measures.

Mr Huddleston said the PM would receive a report on the trials at the end of May, and suggested further events could be added later in the year.

The plans come as the UK reported another 2,297 cases and 10 deaths – although Wales and Northern Ireland were not reporting data.

More than 31.5 million people have received a first dose of the vaccine, and nearly 5.4m have received both jabs, according to the latest government figures.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has confirmed countries will be in a risk-based “traffic light” system when foreign holidays resume.

The pilots will include the FA Cup semi final and final in London’s Wembley Stadium, the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield, a mass participation run at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, and several events in Liverpool including an evening at a nightclub, a business conference and a cinema screening in the city.

The FA Cup final will be using certification.

The first pilot event will be a comedy night in Liverpool on 16 April where audience members will be tested for Covid before and after the show.

Prof Iain Buchan, of the University of Liverpool, will be helping to run testing for the Liverpool-based trials. He told BBC Breakfast taking part would involve “giving your consent to take part when you book a ticket; receiving text messages about hands, face, space, fresh air; minimising unnecessary contacts before the event; getting tested within 36 hours, ideally as close to the event as possible; ideally having a test earlier in the week”.

Prof Buchan added: “Don’t go on the day if you have any symptoms. All the events will be in very well ventilated places and the ventilation will be studied, and people will be asked to minimise contacts and get another test five days after, for the purpose of research.”