Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used his latest Downing Street news conference to suggest that quick Covid-19 tests could enable nightclubs and theatres to reopen.
Although he stressed that it was still early days, Johnson said that "rapid" lateral flow tests could be used by "those parts of the economy we couldn't get open last year".
"I think that, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward," he said.
With the UK’s widespread roll-out of vaccinations, there have also been discussions about vaccine passports.
However, Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the government favoured testing over vaccine passports. It is still unclear whether vaccinated individuals can still transmit the virus.
Johnson’s comments could potentially allow for the reopening of music venues. As singing and shouting have been associated with viral transmission, though, it remains uncertain if the return of live performances would be permitted.
Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd said that the organisation is ready for a rapid testing system.
“Music Venue Trust has already created the possibility of two pilot sites to host events featuring rapid testing and a range of other mitigation measures intended to deliver live music in a safe setting,” he said. “How rapid testing might work to deliver such events safely needs to be tested, and we look forward to working with the government to undertake that work as soon as possible.
“Rapid testing and other forms of health passporting, including vaccination certification, represent one of a range of opportunities to deliver events safely, which we have been discussing with the government since July 2020. A vital element of that work, for our sector, is ensuring that it recognises everyone's right to privacy in balance with music venues' need and duty to protect our staff and customers. Any plan for a health passport must contain rigorous safeguards against excluding people unable to be vaccinated or take part in rapid testing.”
The industry has presented detailed plans for mass testing which we believe could be a very effective way to reopen alongside the mass vaccination programme
Davyd questioned why the government was not pursuing vaccine passports to help reopen the economy.
“It's unclear to us why the government supports rapid testing and certification to enter music venues but apparently does not wish to see exactly the same process used to understand and manage risk using the vaccination process,” he said. “This presents the possibility that someone who has been vaccinated might need to also be rapid tested, which seems counterintuitive. If there is going to be a need to show evidence of being a 'safe customer', surely we want to provide people with the most number of opportunities to do that?”
Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE, said: “As an industry. we will consider any route that gets our doors open again safety and are focused on working with the government to make that possible after nearly a year of closure. The industry has presented detailed plans for mass testing which, with significant government focus, we believe could be a very effective way to reopen alongside the mass vaccination programme.”
The Night Time Industries Association welcomed the route to reopening laid out by the PM.
“Finally we have some acknowledgement from the Prime Minister and government on the existence of late-night economy businesses, including nightclubs, theatres, casinos and late bars, particularly as they are some of the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic,” said CEO Michael Kill.
“We have been lobbying government with a strategy for the safe opening of these important cultural institutions for some time now. Using lateral flow testing has been a consistent narrative, and now with this acknowledgement we will be given the opportunity to deliver pilot schemes which will substantiate the ability for this sector to open safely at the appropriate time, but more importantly we will be able to plan and prepare for that opportunity.”
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