The U.K. government has released data from its Event Research Programme (ERP) large event pilots, citing that most of the 37 events they tracked were not superspreaders. Their findings indicate the events’ COVID-19 rates were similar to community infection rates.
This initial research from NHS Test and Trace has allowed them to declare that “mass participation events can be conducted safely, but caution must still be taken around specific aspects of event participation.”
Attendees of the events—which included Download Festival and Latitude Festival, The BRIT Awards, and select venues and sports games—had to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or natural immunity, or a negative test for entry.
“We’ve shown that we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important that people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings,” U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in the press release. “So that we can keep the football season, theaters and gigs safe with full crowds this winter, I urge sport, music and culture fans to get the vaccine as this is the safest way we can get big events firing on all cylinders once more.”
The outlier superspreader event was the UEFA EURO 2020 soccer finals held at London’s Wembley Stadium on July 7th and 11th. The report highlights the large number of ticketless fans—who thus didn’t have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test—likely contributed to a higher infection rate during the finals.
Researchers also saw spikes across the country after the two finals games, with people testing positive reporting “participating in a variety of activities including visiting bars, pubs, other households and eating out on match days.” Other events held at Wembley, including the earlier semifinal EURO 2020 games, where not linked to higher Coronavirus infections.
“EURO 2020 was a unique occasion and it is unlikely we would see a similar impact on COVID-19 cases from future events,” wrote Deputy Medical Director of Public Health England Dr. Jenifer Smith.
“However, the data does show how easily the virus can spread when there is close contact and this should be a warning to us all as we try and return to a cautious normality once again,” she continued. “When attending large events there are actions we can all take to help reduce the risk. These include: getting both doses of the vaccine as soon as you can, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces such as on public transport on your way, and if you are catching up with friends before an event, consider doing so outdoors to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.”
The press release also notes the ERP is continuing to monitor events and phase two and three of their research will be released at a later date.