Step 2: what events can happen from 12 April?
Monday 12 April marks the activation of Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown in England, in which retail and many hospitality (outdoor) settings can at least partially reopen. But what does it mean for the events industry?
The next key date remains 17 May, in which it is expected that indoor events for up 1,000 people or 50% venue capacity, not including staff, contractors or exhibitors, may reopen. Outdoor events for up to 4,000 (or 50% capacity) are also expected resume, and special dispensation will be given to seated stadiums.
Some public events can take place from 12 April, such as village fetes, agricultural shows, gardening shows, funfairs and food and drink festivals.
Events that are able to commence from Step 2 are not subject to a capacity cap on attendees. However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) expects these events to have fewer than 4,000 attendees per day. Organisers of events that are likely to have more than 4,000 attendees should notify the Local Authority and should only take place if the event organisers can assure them attendees will be dispersed across a sufficiently large geographic area or will be sufficiently distributed throughout the day, so as to mitigate the risk of crowding at the venue and on public transport. Event organisers should follow Covid-secure guidance and must adhere to legal requirements.
The Rule of Six still applies, so any household or group attending an event may not exceed that number.
Hospitality is permitted at these outdoor events, such as takeaway stands.
What about conferences, meetings and exhibitions?
The Government’s guidance lays out what type of ‘business events’ can happen between now and Step 3 (17 May). However, it stops short of putting a maximum capacity on what is permitted. Previously, business events were capped at 30 attendees, in the latest guidance, this is not mentioned.
While essential business meetings can take place, the Government makes clear that before Step 3, a venue must not host conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, private dining events or banquets.
If a venue functions as or contains a conference centre or other meeting facilities, it may be able to open for a limited number of legally permitted reasons.
Permitted venues, including exhibition and conference centres, can hire out function and event spaces for essential work, education and training purposes. This includes, for example exams for a group of students from the same school, college or university mandatory or work-critical training courses, such as training towards a formal qualification hiring a venue to provide additional office space where this is essential to allow safe social distancing of employees from the same company.
The legal gathering limits do not apply to essential work, education or training events. Attendees are not limited to gathering in groups of up to six people or two households.
If venues have multiple, separate meeting facilities, these can be hired out simultaneously for separate meetings/events if the groups can be kept separate.
What about venue tours?
Yes, venue tours are permitted. Business meeting or event venue tours, viewings and site visits for the purpose of inspecting the venue for a future booking can take place at venues which are permitted to open at each step of the roadmap, or where a relevant exemption applies. From Step 2 (12 april), this will include conference centres and exhibition halls, including conference centres located within hotels. While not specifying what it means by this, viewings of other venues can only take place from Step 3, no earlier than 17 May.
My event qualifies as ‘essential’, can I feed my delegates?
Catering can be provided at meetings and events for essential work, education and training purposes. This does not extend to activities that are not strictly related to the essential work, education or training, such as private dining or social purposes with work colleagues. If an essential work, education or training activity changes into a primarily social gathering, then social contact and indoor hospitality restrictions apply, and the activity must stop.
This means that things like post-work drinks must not take place in breach of the rules. Those participating in such a gathering could be fined, as could any premises hosting it.
In short, before 17 May, no social element is permitted as part of a business event.
Do people need to be Covid-19 tested or show a vaccination certificate?
No. While the Government has said it is exploring the potential use of vaccination certificates, the decision to require a mandatory negative Covid-19 test rests firmly with individual organisers. The Government only says: “consider pre-attendance screening.”
What about social distancing?
Yes, for essential business events from 12 April, social distancing rules must by followed.
The Government suggests reviewing meeting rooms and seating areas to ensure they allow social distancing. Space out chairs and tables to meet social distancing requirements and discourage close face-to-face interaction between guests.
Ensure 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.
The Government also says organisers and venues should consider ways to manage groups of visitors, for example splitting delegates into smaller groups to manage entry and exit and staggered lunch or break times.
What about face coverings or masks?
There is no clear guidance on the use of face coverings, but it stands to reason that that they are expected to be worn while moving around venues, and can be removed once seated, similar to that of working in an office. However, the guidance says organisers should avoid situations which encourage people to raise their voices, as this increases transmission risk. Where possible, use microphones (cleaned between users) for communicating to larger groups. You can also use static microphones (rather than roving microphones which are passed between people) for delegates to ask questions, which should be cleaned between users.
Additionally, the guidance notes speakers should wear face coverings when presenting and speaking where possible, and speak at least 2m from attendees. Microphones and podiums should be cleaned between speakers.