Festivals warn: change self-isolation rules or our staff will just ignore them

Festival organisers have urged the government to change “untenable” self-isolation rules that they say are already causing staffing problems and could lead to people deleting the NHS Covid-19 tracing app to avoid getting “pinged”.

Speaking less than a fortnight before the Latitude festival, a government test event, is due to return for the first time since 2019, its founder, Melvin Benn, predicted an explosion of culture over the next two months as festivals return with a stunted season. But he warned of the consequences for the government if it does not change self-isolation requirements for people who are pinged on the NHS app.

他说:What it is likely to result in is people turning the NHS app off. And I think unless the government address that pretty quickly, that will be the result of it. I think the government are aware of that.”

The government has said that from 16 August fully vaccinated people will no longer have to self-isolate if they have been exposed to a Covid case, and Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has said the app will be tweaked to reduce sensitivity after the number pinged reportedly rose by more than 60% in a week.

But Sensor Tower, an app market intelligence and insights company, estimated that usage rose by 6% in the last week of June compared with the previous seven days.

Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said that even if the self-isolation rules are removed for the double-vaccinated, it will still cause huge problems for festival staff – many of whom will not have been offered a second jab yet.

“The problem is that, irrespective of test and trace check-in requirement at events, staff can still be pinged – and for the younger non-double-vaccinated cohorts working at festivals there is no option other than to go home and self-isolate even after 16 August.”He said this could have a “significant impact on the operation of festivals this year” and that they have already had reports from contractors and site management staff who have been forced to cancel because they have been required to self-isolate.

Sacha Lord, co-founder of the Parklife festival and night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said the tracing system is “untenable”. 他说: “Not only are there discrepancies and delays among those who are being pinged, but the confusion surrounding quarantine timeframes and who the processes actually apply to is potentially the most confusing aspect of this crisis so far.

“明显地, this hasn’t been helped by the illogical exclusions we’ve seen given to delegates at the G7 summit or the Euros.”

他加了: “To continue in this state of affairs for the next five weeks until 16 August will place untenable pressure on the sector. I predict we’ll see many more venues forced to close temporarily at a time where they are desperate to finally reopen, and many events cancelled purely due to this lack of staff.”

Benn, who is also managing director of Festival Republic, the UK promoter of festivals including Reading and Leeds, Download and Wireless, said there has been a “cultural vacuum” since the start of the pandemic, but that now “the lid is being lifted off that vacuum and, gosh, the air is going to explode outwards”. 他加了: “We really are going to have a hell of a two months of wonderful summer and wonderful culture.”Due to As a result of travel restrictions, he said the line-up at Latitude, which will operate at full 40,000 capacity, is UK and Irish-focused and that nobody from the US was booked in anticipation of quarantining issues. He conceded there are “definitely going to be lots of positive cases”over the summer, but said that he does not believe that attending festivals is risky.“I don’t think it is risky and the reason I don’t think it’s risky is because Professor [克里斯] Whitty doesn’t think it’s risky … he has been the most sensible man on the planet since the beginning of the pandemic and he’s the one saying it’s actually OK to open without restrictions.”

As a test event, Latitude will need festivalgoers to present either proof of full vaccination or a negative lateral flow test, which they must register on the NHS test and trace website. But otherwise, he said it will be “an absolutely normal festival”. He has previously he will not ask anyone at events to wear masks, claiming the Labour frontbench is putting out “codswallop”.

然而, John Drury, professor of social psychology at Sussex University and a participant in an advisory subgroup of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that although attending a festival could be less risky than going to other types of mass events, it comes with a “relatively high” risk of infection.

The “psychological crowd” of a festival poses a significant risk, 他说. “There’s loads of research now going back over 10 years showing that the more that you identify with others around you, the more comfortable you are with proximity – in fact you seek it out … The fact that people have a strong sense of psychological togetherness leads to physical proximity behaviours that you don’t get in other kinds of settings.”Stephen Reicher, a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science and a professor of psychology at St Andrews University, said allowing mass events sends the wrong message.

“If you see tens of thousands of people together drinking together, hugging together and so on, it’s a clear message to everyone that, '出色地, what’s the point of you maintaining other restrictions?’

“The problem is that when the government talks about changing from restrictions to personal responsibility in releasing restrictions, it’s sending a very strong message to people that you don’t need to exercise any responsibility because Covid isn’t an issue – and it plainly is.”

The government had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication.