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Business events reopening: what you need to know

Business events, conferences, exhibitions and events centres will be given the go ahead to reopen on 1 October adhering to social distancing, prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed, 17 July. Meetings of up to 30 people are allowed from 1 August in certain venues if they are capable of adhering to safety guidance and can accommodate social distancing requirements. This may include hotels, cinemas and heritage venues.

The return date of 1 October is conditional on the rate of infection staying at a manageable level

Following the announcement, a number of pilot events will take place at event venues across the country to plan for a return to large-scale events and test how best to implement social distancing practises. Details of these pilots will be finalised in partnership with the sector in the coming weeks. 

New guidance, published by the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), will help event organisers, venue operators and participants in the UK understand how they can work and host business events and conferences and keep both their guests and staff safe. 

Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Business events and conferences are a key part of our visitor economy and this is an important step in getting them back up and running safely. 

“Pilots will help inform our plans for the return of the sector in October with guests and staff adhering to social distancing and measures introduced to reduce close contact. 

“The UK has a great reputation in staging fantastic events that help drive growth for many different sectors and this will give the business event sector the certainty it needs to plan for the future.” 

The guidance makes clear that the following measures should be considered to allow for safe resumption of business events and conferences: 

  • Attendees will need to pre-book and pre-register to attend events

  • Contactless registration systems will be introduced at venues to reduce waiting times and limit contact between organisers and guests 

  • A digital first approach will be adopted to eliminate the need for physical badges and lanyards

  • Paper handouts and gifts will no longer be offered 

  • Entrance to event or conference spaces will be staggered to reduce queuing and overall capacity will be limited to ensure social distancing can be maintained 

  • Events will be planned around one way systems for visitors

  • Spaces between exhibition booths will be increased and aisles widened to achieve social distancing requirements 

  • All venues will also have enhanced cleaning procedures, with hand washing and sanitising facilities at frequent intervals

What the DCMS says  

The following text is taken from the Government website. Please click here to read the guidance in full. 

Meetings of up to 30 people indoors are allowed in permitted venues if social distancing can be maintained and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the Covid-19 guidance. 

From 1 August, exhibition and conference centres are also allowed to show small groups (of up to 30 people, with social distancing requirements) around to view the facilities and plan future events, and to enable government backed pilots to take place. They should not be open fully to host events more widely. 

From 1 October, it is expected that events of all types (e.g. trade shows, consumer shows, exhibitions, conferences) will be allowed at a capacity allowing for compliance with social distancing of 2m, or 1m with mitigation (approximately equivalent to a density of 10㎡ per person). Where such events involve people speaking loudly for prolonged periods of time any mitigation must include particular attention to the ventilation of the spaces. This will be subject to the latest public health advice. 

The Association of Event Organisers will publish guidance specifically for exhibition, trade fairs and consumer shows to reopen 

The Meetings Industry Association as produced guidance specifically for conferences and meetings venues, which is also wrapped into the wider UKHospitality guidance 

You should consider the relevant sections of workplace guidance as well as relevant guidance on pubs and restaurants and the UKHospitality guidance for catering requirements 

Outdoor events (e.g. including agriculture shows and festivals) are covered by events guidance drafted by the Events Industry Forum 

Events taking place in heritage attractions/buildings should read 2.2.4 and follow through to Historic England guidance. 

Business meetings 

  1. Preventing the attendance of anyone who is symptomatic; has recently been symptomatic; tested positive for Covid-19; or if they are a contact of someone symptomatic or has been identified by the NHS Test & Trace programme as someone who has been a close contact of a case. See current guidance for people who have symptoms and those who live with others who have symptoms. 

  1. Avoiding the potential for transmission of Covid-19 during meetings, for example avoiding sharing pens and other objects. 

  1. Encouraging customers to use handwashing facilities or hand sanitiser (where washing facilities are not available) as they enter the premises to reduce the risk of transmission by touching products or surfaces. 

  1. Ensuring that meeting rooms are cleaned thoroughly between users and the frequent touch points such as door handles and surfaces are continuously kept clean through an event. 

  1. Ensuring that social distancing applies to all parts of a premises where the meeting is being conducted, not just the place where people spend most of their time, but also entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings. These are often the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing. 

  1. Holding meetings outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms whenever possible. See below for more information on air ventilation. 

  1. Having socially distanced seating and/or spacing out any tables to meet social distancing requirements. 

  1. When indoors avoid those speaking doing so directly face to face with other participants whenever possible. 

  1. Taking steps to avoid loud speaking or shouting, such as not using background music and the use of microphones. 

  1. For areas where regular meetings take place, using floor signage to help people maintain social distancing. 

Conferences and events 

In addition to interventions above, the following mitigations should be meticulously applied when planning business and consumer trade events: 

  • Crowd Density Standard: at a capacity allowing for compliance with social distancing of 2m, or 1m with mitigation (approximately equivalent to a density of 10㎡ per person) 

  • Controlled entry: staggering admission to ensure socially distanced arrival 

  • Managing queues outside the venue to ensure they do not cause a risk to individuals or other businesses, for example by introducing queuing systems, using barriers and having staff direct customers 

  • Controlled flow during an event: introducing one-way systems and timed tickets to control flow and alleviate congestion 

  • Providing floor markings, where appropriate, and signage to remind both workers and customers to follow to social distancing wherever possible 

  • Assigning appropriately distanced seating where events have a seated element and encourage seated events 

  • Ensuring that on site speakers are subject to restrictions on live performances - see performing arts guidance for more information 

  • The opening up of the economy following the Covid-19 outbreak is being supported by NHS Test and Trace. You should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business but effective for managing disease transmission risks, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed.