Step 3: what events can happen from 17 May?
Monday 17 May marks the activation of Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown in England, with the prime minister Boris Johnson confirming (on 10 May) the planned next stage will go ahead.
While Step 3 is good news for pub and restaurant owners, who will again be allowed to welcome people back inside their venues, it is also good news for large parts of the events industry.
While social distancing is still required, there is no requirement for Covid-status certification at this time to secure entry, although that could change at a later date. Overnight stays will also be allowed from 17 May.
Are conferences, meetings and exhibitions allowed?
Yes, from 17 May most events will resume in some capacity, although it is likely some may opt to postpone if costs make it unviable owing to capacity restrictions.
Business events such as conferences, tradeshows, exhibitions, charity auctions, and private dining events such as charity or gala dinners and awards ceremonies, and corporate hospitality are all permitted.
Also permitted to reopen are cinemas, live performances, circuses, air shows, historical /battle reenactments, live animal performances such as falconry displays at events, non-elite and professional sporting events and grassroots and professional sporting events.
What capacity restrictions are in place?
From the 17 May, indoor events for up 1,000 people or 50% venue capacity, not including staff, contractors or exhibitors, will reopen. Outdoor events for up to 4,000 (or 50% capacity) may also resume, and special dispensation will be given to seated stadiums.
The Government has also made a special provision for large, outdoor seated venues where crowds can be distributed around the venue, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower. This provision can be used by venues with a seated capacity of 16,000 or above. For events with mixed seating and standing areas including music, elite sporting events and non-elite/professional spectator events, the capacity cap will be calculated as 25% of seated capacity, irrespective of any standing capacity.
Three rules to know
The Government states organisers must adhere to the following three rules:
- Event organisers follow all relevant Covid-secure guidance depending on the type of event and complete a related risk assessment. This guidance varies according to the type of event and could include business events, outdoor events, funfairs, performing arts or sports events.
- Organisers and attendees must adhere to all legal requirements, including maintaining group sizes permitted by social contact restrictions at the relevant step in the Roadmap and preventing mixing between groups, enforcing social distancing guidelines and mandating face coverings in indoor areas where required.
- All reasonable action has been taken by the event organiser to mitigate risk to public health.
What about the social contact rules and group sizes?
While an organiser can run a 1,000-person event, individual groups attending may not be more than six or two households. For example, 30 individual friends cannot attend an indoor event together.
However, a group of 30 can attend an outdoor event.
People can attend business events in larger groups if it is reasonably necessary for work purposes that everyone in the group attends together. However, in those circumstances, people are still encouraged to attend either alone or in groups as small as possible and must avoid mixing and switching between groups. People should adhere to all risk mitigations identified for that event and maintain social distancing from people they do not live with (or share a bubble with), wherever possible.
These social contact limits for permitted organised gatherings will be:
- Indoors - rule of 6 or 2 households
- Outdoors - 30 people
- Organised sport - exempt from social contact limits
Organisers should also mitigate risk to public health by controlling attendance, limiting numbers to take account of the space and ventilation of a venue and implementing effective infection prevention and control measures.
How do capacity caps work?
All capacity restrictions must be adhered to at any point throughout the event. For example, an exhibition or conference can admit over 1,000 people in a single day, but no more than 1,000 people at one time. If an event runs over the course of multiple days, no more than 1,000 people should be admitted at any one time over that period. An organiser could theoretically run an event with 1,000 people in the morning, and 1,000 people in the afternoon.
If a single venue hosts multiple different events at one time, and the attendees of each event are separated for the duration of the event (for example, an exhibition centre hosting multiple business events), the 50% capacity cap will apply to each individual event, rather than the venue.
This should be applied consistently across all types of events apart from grassroots organised sports participants events which are not subject to the limits on participants, but they are still subject to limits on spectators.
For those events subject to capacity caps, it should be noted that the caps refer to the event attendees only. Staff, workers and volunteers are covered by the work exemption so should not be counted as part of the capacity cap.
Do people need to be Covid-19 tested or show a vaccination certificate (Covid-status certification)?
No, not at this stage. While the Government has said it is exploring the potential use of ‘Covid-secure status’, the decision to require a mandatory negative Covid-19 test rests firmly with individual organisers. The Government only says: “consider pre-attendance screening.”
During his address, 10 May, the prime minister hinted that from Step 4 on 21 June, there may be no need for any form of Covid-status certification. It is believed that the recommendations from the scientists after the Event Research Programme will determine this.
What about social distancing?
Yes, for all events from 17 May, social distancing rules must be 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 across all the different settings, but it stands to reason that that they are expected to be worn while moving around (indoor) 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.
What about catering?
From 17 May, catering can also be provided for permitted events, such as business events and private dining. Awards nights and gala dinners will need to follow hospitality guidance. Read the guidance via UKHospitality.