HThe opportunity for the West End to come back to life from June 21 received a huge boost as the Culture Secretary revealed the results of the biggest crowd event testing to date.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening Standard, Oliver Dowden revealed that only 15 cases of Covid-19 emerged among 58,000 people who took part in events ranging from the Brit Awards to the FA Cup final.
- Only four cases of Covid have occurred in the entire 17 days of the World Snooker Championships, held indoors at the Crucible Theater in Sheffield.
- No case emerged from the British, although the public could mingle at tables and in boxes without masks.
- There were only two cases among 5,900 pop fans at an outdoor music festival in Sefton Park, Liverpool, and no cases of reduced capacity football at Wembley Stadium, indicating that the festivals of summer, sporting events and outdoor entertainment are very safe.
- Nine cases were found among 6,000 revelers who packed up at a nightclub in Liverpool for two days without a mask. The relatively higher incidence confirmed that clubbing is the most difficult part of the nighttime economy to bring back safely, but is not considered to be so high as to preclude reopening of venues.
Mr Dowden, delighted, said: “Overall it has been a real success.” He said he was “hopeful” that June 21 will see the West End’s theaters and other venues reopen on a large scale.
He announced that the government was commissioning a second round of trials involving even larger crowds at key venues to deepen ministers’ understanding of how to handle events and the public safely, including the possible role that so-called Covid passports could play.
Standard understands that European Championship matches at Wembley Stadium will likely be included in the study, meaning fans could enjoy the matches amid the roar of a large crowd.
“I hope that by June 21 we will light up the West End again, have full stadiums and bring light and Technicolor back into our national life,” the minister said.
The results of the first round of testing will play a crucial role in helping determine Boris Johnson’s decision on whether to end social distancing in the fourth stage of the roadmap, which is due to go into effect on June 21.
Mr Dowden said his “laser-like focus” was on hoping to end the restrictions, again allowing capacity crowds in theaters, cinemas, clubs, museums and music venues without distancing social or masks.
“This is what success looks like to me,” he said. “I think we’re making good progress along the line in bringing the West End back to life.”
He declined to predict what the prime minister would decide, but hoped even nightclubs could reopen with “mitigating measures” such as additional ventilation or testing.
“There are two questions. Can we continue with the fourth step on June 21? Hope i hope we can. We certainly do not rule it out. Then the second question is “how” and this is about the type of mitigation you might have to put in place. “
Could he envision theaters being allowed to sell all seats instead of keeping some empty? Mr Dowden admitted he was tempted to say he was “confident”, but opted for the more cautious phrase: “I have a lot of hope”.
Great Britain is the only country to have organized such detailed research into the events. The research used a variety of crowd sizes, some with masks and social distances, others without. Mr Dowden said the data was giving “very positive signals”.
The second wave of testing will help prepare the country for the possibility of another Covid surge in the future, possibly involving a further mutation. “Even after June 21, we need to make sure we are fully equipped to meet potential challenges,” Mr. Dowden said. “Irreversibility is a really important part of all of this.”
BBC will get the chance to prove it can do its own surveillance
Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Dowden revealed that the BBC would have a chance to prove that it can provide its own ‘watch and challenge’ in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal, but warned that an independent body could see itself entrust the task.
“I think the BBC has to look to itself first to see if it can get there through its own reforms, and then we’ll basically judge through the mid-term review to see if this is necessary, ”he said.
Mr Dowden defended his comment that the BBC should ‘project British values’ into the future, which some have interpreted as an indication that the government may impose such values.
He said he was committed to editorial independence and his point was to project values onto the world stage. “There is real space globally to have this truly reliable diffuser. These are British values: values of trust, of impartiality, and in a world where democratic values are increasingly threatened, I certainly think the BBC should be there, defending those values.
The minister said he did not consider himself ‘awake’ and said: ‘I want to make sure that a grandmother from Middlesbrough or a middle aged man in Wolverhampton feels represented as a millennial of Islington ”.
Urging cultural institutions not to get carried away with campaigns like the movement to remove statues, he said: “What I’m saying is, let’s make sure we have a longer term perspective on all of this. . Just look at what happened to our cityscape after WWII. The misplaced idealism of socialist planners has done more damage [than] by Luftwaffe bombers.