Managing COVID-19 Risk in the UK Entertainment Industry


IOM was engaged by a commissioning group consisting of the Night Time Industries Association, the Music Venues Trust, Festival Republic, Tokyo Industries, The Deltic Group and Proud Leisure.

Our task was to provide an independent review of the scientific evidence concerning the transmission of COVID-19 and its implications for the entertainment industry, including in particular performers, nightclubs and festivals.

The output is a paper that examines the high-level scientific advice given to Government and the underlying science concerning the risk factors associated with Covid-19 infection, including how the virus is spread (e.g. aerosol presence, droplet propulsion, surface contamination), and the likely effectiveness of mitigation measures of relevance to the UK entertainment industry (e.g. air quality/filtration, hand hygiene, Perspex screens).

Currently, the Government’s guidance for pubs and bars states: “At this time, venues should not permit live performances, including drama, comedy and music, to take place in front of a live audience”. The Government’s website explains that live performances carry “an increased risk of transmission”, as might “patrons needing to raise their voices to be heard above background music”.

We have found no evidence that precludes the opening of any indoor or outdoor venue, provided a risk assessment is undertaken and control measures are in place. However, because of the lack of data relating to specific entertainment venues, we suggest this is an area of potential future study.

There are a series of controls and barriers that can be implemented to protect the public. These barriers and controls are not an exhaustive list and are being added to.  A disciplined approach to risk assessment and the implementation of a hierarchy of control can be applied to all types of venue, but there is no ‘one size, fits all’ solution, with each venue needing to demonstrate a considered approach to protecting public health.

We conclude there is no single solution to reducing the risk of transmission, nor to provide confidence to policymakers, staff or customers. This is a complicated time and a prudent, considered approach, using the hierarchy of control, should be taken. The science is evolving but so are the mitigations that deal with the known and unknown risks.

This study is stage one of that approach, understanding. Stage two is focused on applying the understanding gained to their industry to determine a route map for re-opening.