As the lead researcher for the Liverpool pilots of the Events Research Programme (ERP), i would like to respond to your article about the phase one report. Experts say that Covid event pilots were compromised by low PCR test uptake, 25 June. The ERP aims to explore how large crowds can be returned without social distancing and minimize the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks. This programme includes environmental studies on air quality and crowd movement, epidemiological studies of the spread of viruses at events, behavioural studies of audience experience, and economic and operational analyses of managing such events with risk mitigation measures. This work has produced a lot of valuable data that was early analysed last week.
Participants in pilots agreed to participate, answered questions, completed tests, and allowed their data to link for study. They also reported high levels satisfaction. It's also important to note that:
Pilots were intended to assess the feasibility of risk reduction measures and not to give an exact estimate of Covid-19 virus transmission at events. Public health was not about reducing virus transmission to a certain level, but to prevent and control epidemics.
We found no major Covid-19 outbreaks around these events using a combination research (RTPCR) and data from the public health surveillance system. Pilots were also running at the same moment as large outbreaks in audience home populations surrounding smaller gatherings at venues without ERP risk mitigation measures.
RT-PCR is not the gold standard for events admission testing because the results take too much time to be available. This could mean that an individual who has incubated the virus might have become infected.
The following areas were identified as areas for improving risk management: raising awareness about wider Covid-19 symptoms that are relevant to the vaccination era and advice not attending if you feel unwell; moving the time for (repeat testing) closer to events; having a ventilation plan at each venue; mobilising contact-tracing groups before events open.
ERP pilots were the first ones to restore audiences to their full capacity. This not only addressed the economic survival of this sector, but also the mental and social well-being these events bring to many people and communities. This includes the young and those living in disadvantaged areas, who were particularly affected by Covid-19 restrictions. Events, visitors, and hospitality are a large part of ERP's success in many regions. Liverpool: 48%
The partnership between event organisers, public healthcare teams, and audience members in these areas gave rise to rich learning about how to implement risk-mitigation strategies quickly, efficiently, and effectively. This sector will reopen faster and more safely thanks to the rich data generated by the ERP program.
Prof. Iain Buchan
Director, Institute of Population Health, University of Liverpool; Principal Investigator for the Events Research Programme, Liverpool