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Covid pilot shows only minor outbreaks

Sheffield Crucible - the only theatre featured in the testing
Sheffield Crucible - the only theatre featured in the testing

The government’s pilot tests to check the potential dangers of free mixing within different types of events have shown no significant outbreaks among those involved.

But the pilots themselves are shown to be rather inconclusive – because relatively few people completed the checks to establish numbers.

The report of the Events Research Programme, which analysed the effects of anti-spread requirements on the industry, showed Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre – the only theatre involved in the pilots – suffered only six cases of coronavirus among the almost-7,500 audience members over a 17-day test.

The testing team gave audience members pre- and post-event PCR tests to check on possible infection – and this is where the pilots suffered their setback. The generally positive report suggests the results should be read with “extreme caution”, because only 15 per cent of the people involved completed both tests, the national infection rate was fairly low when the pilots took place, and there was no control group for comparison.

The report came shortly after leaked news about the potential losses companies might face if various aspects of the anti-covid measures – from simple masks to full-blown social-distancing – were to continue after the expected open-house date of July 19. It also came 24 hours after a group of major producers launched legal action to have the results published.

Only 28 positive cases were identified from the tests, 11 of them thought to be “potentially infectious at an event”, with 17 more believed to have been infected at or within a couple of days of the test event.

The potential for infected people attending events was such that the report suggested a need for “robust outbreak control procedures” to be in place – which in some ways throws the possibility of continuing social-distancing measures, disinfection and masking back into the hands of theatres.


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