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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-organised-events-guidance-for-local-authorities/coronavirus-covid-19-organised-events-guidance-for-local-authorities
Applies to: England
The government’s Spring 2021 Roadmap is a four-step plan aiming to ease lockdown restrictions across England.
Indicative dates for each step of the Roadmap are:
Step 1a — from 8 March, Step 1b — from 29 March
Step 2 — from 12 April
Step 3 — no earlier than 17 May
Step 4 — no earlier than 21 June
Decisions on easing restrictions will be led by data rather than dates. It takes around four weeks for the data to show the impact of easing restrictions and the government will provide a week’s notice to the public and businesses ahead of any further changes. For that reason, there will be at least five weeks between the steps in the roadmap.
Before moving from one step to the next, the government will review the latest available data on the impact of the previous step against four tests. The tests are:
The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
The government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
The indicative dates for each step are contingent on the data and are subject to change if the four tests are not met.
This guidance is aimed at local authorities in England and is designed to assist local authorities in ensuring that events are able to go ahead safely and in accordance with what is permitted at each step of the Roadmap. It should be considered alongside the relevant guidance aimed at event organisers — a full list of the relevant guidance can be found in the Existing guidance section.
From Step 1b, outdoor grassroots sport and outdoor socially-distanced under-18 activities will be allowed to resume and from Steps 2-4 events organised by businesses, charitable organisations, sporting and public bodies will be permitted, within the restrictions set out in this guidance, providing that:
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 outdoor events, funfairs, performing arts or sports events (full list in the Existing guidance section).
Organisers and attendees 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.
As per regulation 2(6)(f) of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020, a place is indoors if it would be considered to be enclosed or substantially enclosed for the purposes of section 2 of the Health Act 2006 under the Smoke-free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006.
For all indoor settings where the use of face coverings is not legally mandated, businesses should assess the use of face coverings by staff and attendees on a case by case basis. Face coverings should be worn where social distancing may be difficult and wherever interaction between people not from the same household or support bubble is likely to occur. Employers should assess the use of face coverings by staff depending on the workplace environment, other appropriate mitigations that have been put in place, and whether reasonable exemptions apply.
Organised sport participation events are not subject to the cap on participants and can go ahead in any number so long as they follow COVID-secure guidance as set out in the Coronavirus (COVID-19): grassroots sports guidance for safe provision.
Roadmap Step 1b:
Permitted events — from 29 March 2021
Outdoor grassroots sport and outdoor organised team and sports participation events will be allowed to resume from Step 1b, but spectators will not be permitted at sporting events taking place on private land at Step 1b, with the exception of adults only where they are needed for safeguarding purposes or for providing care or assistance to a person with disabilities participating in an organised sporting event or activity. These adults should maintain social distance and not mix with other households. This does not prevent people from viewing recreational or organised sport that is taking place in a public space (e.g. a park) at Step 1b or Step 2, in groups of up to 6 people or 2 households. However, sporting events that are intended to attract spectators (including ticketed events), or events that are likely to attract a significant number of spectators (e.g. a major marathon), should not take place in a public space, or on private land, until Step 3.
Non-professional performing arts groups, such as choirs and brass bands, will also be able to meet outdoors in groups of 6 to rehearse or practise, with no audience. Groups should follow the advice provided in the government’s performing arts guidance.
Outdoor, socially-distanced, organised activities, including workshops such as photography, gardening, and crafts at heritage sites and other outside spaces, will also be permitted at this step. Other outdoor activities, such as themed walking trails will also be permitted, including guided walks consisting of either a single permitted group or multiple permitted groups that are kept separate throughout the tour. These types of activities are subject to the gathering limits set out in the Roadmap — i.e. outside in groups up to a maximum of 6 people (the Rule of 6) or with one other household, though people from different households will still need to socially distance from each other. Support bubbles will continue to be counted as part of the same household.
Organised walking groups for the purpose of exercise, if conducted under the organised sports participation events guidance, are not subject to the gathering limits. Please be aware that informal or self-organised sport is not covered by any exemptions, and can only take place within the legal gathering limits which otherwise apply to social contact: in groups of up to 6 people, or 2 households including bubbles.
Enforcing restrictions on gatherings is principally for the police or Police Community Support Officers.
Roadmap Step 2
Permitted events — from 12 April 2021
As set out above, around four weeks is required to see the impact of the previous step in the data and the government has committed to provide a further week’s notice. Step 2 will therefore take place no earlier than 12 April, subject to an assessment of the data against the four tests. If Step 2 is delayed, subsequent steps will need to be pushed back in order to maintain the necessary five week period to assess the impact of each step and provide notice.
An event can take place at Step 2 if:
All three of the following conditions are met:
a) The event takes place outdoors
b) Attendees are expected to arrive and leave the event in a staggered manner throughout the day
c) It does not involve attendees converging on and congregating in a site for a specific discrete performance or activity, such as a theatre or music performance, OR
It is a drive-in performance or show.
This could include events such as:
- agricultural shows
- steam rallies
- flower shows
- gardening shows and events
- literary fairs
- car boot sales
- community fairs
- village fetes
- animal and pet shows
- funfairs and fairgrounds
- drive-in cinemas and drive-in performance events (eg comedy, dance, music, theatre and air shows)[footnote 1]
- food and drink festivals[footnote 2]
- organised sports participation events
Events that are able to commence from Step 2 are not subject to a capacity cap on attendees. However, we expect 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 the local authority that 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 (including entry and exit points; toilet facilities; and food and drink facilities) and on public transport. Event organisers should follow COVID-secure guidance and must adhere to legal requirements.
Step 2 social contact rules in England will remain the same as in Step 1 — outdoor gatherings must be limited to groups of six people or two households, with no indoor mixing allowed unless otherwise exempt. This limits people from attending an event in a group of larger than 6 people or 2 households. A ‘household’ can include a linked support bubble.
Organised sports participation events include but are not limited to: organised running events, organised cycle races and rides, organised walks.
Organised sports including organised sports participation events are not subject to the capacity cap or social contact rules stated above. However, sporting events that are intended to attract spectators (including ticketed events), or events that are likely to attract a significant number of spectators (e.g. a major marathon) should not take place in a public space, or on private land, until Step 3.
As with Step 1b, spectators are not permitted to attend grassroots or professional sporting events taking place on private land, other than for safeguarding reasons or for providing care or assistance to a person with disabilities participating in an organised sporting event or activity. They should maintain social distance and not mix with other households.
This does not prevent people from viewing recreational or organised sport that is taking place in a public space (e.g. a park) at Step 1b or Step 2, in groups of up to 6 people or 2 households.
Roadmap Step 3
Permitted events — no earlier than 17 May 2021
Step 3 will take place no earlier than 17 May, and at least five weeks after Step 2, following a further review of the data and the four tests. Again, the government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned.
Our intention is that indoor events and all remaining outdoor events can commence from Step 3, subject to meeting COVID-secure requirements including social distancing.
Events that are able to commence from Step 3 include those where:
People are likely to congregate in one area for the duration of the event.
People are likely to enter or leave the venue in large numbers at a similar time.
This could include events and activities such as:
- business events such as conferences, trade shows, exhibitions, charity auctions, and private dining events such as charity or gala dinners and awards ceremonies, and corporate hospitality
- live performances[footnote 3]
- air shows
- historical /battle reenactments
- live animal performances such as falconry displays at events
- non-elite and professional sporting events
- grassroots and professional sporting events
Event organisers will need to adhere to the three requirements set out at the start of this guidance. This includes the need to follow the relevant COVID-secure guidance, taking reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission, completing a related risk assessment, and adhering to all legal requirements, including ensuring that those attending an event do not mix beyond what is permitted by social contact limits.
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.
All events recommencing at Step 3 will be subject to the following capacity caps:
1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower at indoor events
4,000 people or 50% of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower at outdoor events
The government has also made a special provision for large, outdoor seated venues where crowds can be safely 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. All spectators admitted under this provision must be seated and should not access the venue’s standing capacity to view the event. Where the crowds cannot be seated at a large outdoor venue for the duration of the event or the seated capacity does not exceed 16,000 the cap of 50% of the site’s capacity up to a maximum of 4,000 people will apply.
All capacity restrictions must be adhered to at any point throughout the event. For example, a theatre 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. 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, a cinema with multiple screens, or 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. This includes:
- delivery staff
- operational team (such as reception, maintenance, cleaning security & stewarding and ticketing staff)
- caterers and concession stand staff
- presentation/production team
- exhibitors, speakers, musicians and performers
This should be applied consistently across all types of events.
Events which cannot take place until further notice
An event cannot take place in either Step 2 or Step 3 if it is unlikely that social distancing between groups of attendees can be maintained, or if other COVID-secure requirements cannot be met. This may be the case for events such as music festivals and carnivals. This guidance varies according to the type of event and could include outdoor events, performing arts or sports events. A full list of guidance is provided in the Existing guidance section.
If an event falls into this category, event organisers should approach local authorities to look at identifying whether any adjustments to the format of the event can be made to enable the event to go ahead. This may include the use of seating or barriers to ensure that attendees maintain an appropriate distance.
Roadmap Step 4
Permitted events — no earlier than 21 June 2021
Step 4 will take place no earlier than 21 June, and at least five weeks after Step 3, following a further review of the data against the four tests. As before, the government will announce one week in advance whether restrictions will be eased as planned.
With appropriate mitigations in place, by Step 4, the government aims to remove all legal limits on social contact and enable all events above the Step 3 capacity restrictions to go ahead. This will be strictly subject to the government review of the latest available data on the impact of the previous step against four tests and the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme, potentially using testing to reduce the risk of infection, subject to further evaluation.
Catering and hospitality
Permitted events at each step of the Spring Roadmap may provide hospitality in line with wider hospitality rules.
In Step 2, outdoor hospitality at events is permitted in groups of up to 6 people, or with one other household.
In Step 3, outdoor hospitality at events is permitted in groups of up to 30 people and indoor hospitality at events will be permitted in groups of up to 6 people, or with one other household.
In both steps, there is a requirement for food and drink to be consumed at the table. This means:
- if the venue sells alcohol, then all food and drink must be ordered, served and consumed at a table
- where the sale of alcohol is not offered, customers will need to be seated when consuming food and drink, but can order and collect food and drink from a counter
- if the venue is a cinema, theatre, concert hall or sportsground, then customers with a ticket to the event are able to collect food and drink (including alcoholic drink) to consume at their seats, rather than having to be served at a table
Where there is no seating available, the stall or outlet can provide a takeaway or delivery service. Takeaway food and drink cannot be consumed in the stall or outlet, or in an area adjacent to the stall or outlet, and customers should be reminded to adhere to safe social distancing when queuing for food and drink by putting up signs or introducing a one way system that customers can follow or employing extra marshals to enforce this.
In Step 3, indoor private dining events such as charity or gala dinners and awards ceremonies, and corporate hospitality, are permitted. COVID-19 guidance for bars, pubs and takeaway services should be followed for these events. Events organisers must ensure in particular:
- tables are spaced out to ensure 2m social distancing is in place or 1m with barriers between tables
- attendees are in groups of no more than 6 people, or two households, and do not mix with any other groups at the event
- seating is assigned and carefully controlled to ensure attendees do not mix with any other table, including approaching other tables or sitting at different tables
- food and drink is consumed by attendees while they are seated
- attendees wear face coverings whenever not seated at their table
These events are only permitted at Step 3 where they are organised by a business, charitable organisation, sporting or public body and where they follow all relevant COVID-19 Secure guidance and all legal requirements. Private dining events for social purposes are only permitted within the social contact rules at this step of the roadmap i.e. for groups comprising up to 6 people or two households indoors or up to 30 people outdoors. Those participating in gatherings in breach of these rules could be fined, as could any hospitality premises hosting such a gathering.
The performing arts guidance sets out how professional singing can take place in both outdoor and indoor settings. While indoor and outdoor venues cannot reopen until Step 3, professional rehearsals and streaming can still take place in theatres and concert halls. Non-professional activity, such as rehearsals, can take place outdoors from 29 March in line with social mixing limits however audiences are not permitted in any settings until Step 3. Non-professional activity indoors cannot resume until Step 3.
The performing arts guidance advises that organisers should take proactive steps to encourage audiences to support the safety of the event and discourage activities which can create aerosol such as shouting, chanting and singing along. Coronavirus spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact. Singing, shouting and physical activity increases the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols. If singing does take place, steps to reduce the risk of transmission should be taken, including limiting the number of people participating as far as possible. The cumulative effect of aerosol transmission means the more people involved, the higher the risk of transmission. Further advice about how groups can implement further mitigations such as reducing the length of activity can be found in the performing arts guidance. Performances in places of worship should also refer to this guidance.
Events Research Programme
Over the spring, the government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots, using enhanced testing approaches and other measures, to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start at Step 2. The government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, and subject to the government’s 4 tests at all stages in the roadmap, the government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.
Local authority decision-making
Local authorities can allow or prohibit organised events from taking place in their local area,[footnote 4] within the above framework which the government has determined for permitting events at each step of the Roadmap. Decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, with consideration given to both the risks and the mitigations in place as well as the economic and social benefits that events offer to local communities. Local authorities should not issue blanket bans on permitted events, and should assess each event in discussion with the organiser based on the COVID-secure guidance and relevant government restrictions in place at the time. Any objections to a particular event by a local authority should be based on clear evidence that points to inadequate alignment with guidance or government restrictions, or to the absence of a comprehensive risk assessment.
Local authorities should consider convening a Safety Advisory Group (SAG) where appropriate in order to bring together representatives from the local authority, emergency services and other relevant bodies. The local Director of Public Health (DPH), should also be invited to the SAG. If a SAG is not convened, or if the DPH is unable to attend, local authorities should engage the DPH at the earliest opportunity. Local authorities should also work closely with local transport authorities, utilising the Travel demand management toolkit to develop a clear transport management plan to reduce pressure on the local transport network where events are taking place in the local area.
Event organisers should make it clear to local authorities whether their particular event contains any elements of a business event, sporting event, or live performance or show that would make it subject to a capacity cap. Event organisers may be able to remove a particular element of the event to allow it to proceed without a cap on numbers, and this should be discussed between local authorities and event organisers where relevant.
Local authorities/Safety Advisory Groups should provide advice to businesses on how to manage events of this type if required.
To assist in determining if the proposed event is allowed, local authorities should take into consideration the list of permitted events above and the ability of event organisers to control the staggered arrival and departure of attendees, as well as the flow and dispersal across the event site of customers within their permitted groups to ensure that large numbers of people do not congregate in any one area of the site.
In deciding whether an event is permitted, local authorities should also consider factors such as:
- Is there a risk to local population health, taking into account local trends in the prevalence of coronavirus?
- Is the event permitted at the relevant Step of the Roadmap?
- Is it an event that is subject to restrictions: a business event, elite sporting event, fundraising event or live performance?
- Has the event organiser carried out a comprehensive risk assessment?
- Has the event organiser taken into account the relevant COVID-secure guidance?
- Can/will all mitigations be operated effectively?
- What will be the impact on the local area and other adjacent areas?
- Has the event organiser engaged appropriately with neighbouring businesses, transport operators and local police to assess and mitigate risks arising from pressure on local and public transport?
- Has the event organiser engaged appropriately with with local accommodation providers in the area in the event of overnight stays, including for event staff, workers and contractors
- Has the event organiser considered the impact of increased footfall on the surrounding area and infrastructure (for example, queue management and crowding outside of a venue)?
- Will attendees be primarily local, or will there be additional risk factors created by attracting a national or international audience for the event?
- Has the event organiser successfully run their event in line with COVID-secure guidance previously? This could be within the local authority area or successful events in other local authority areas.
Through conversations with the event organiser and a review of their Risk Assessment, local authorities will need to satisfy themselves that the event organiser has put in place reasonable mitigations to:
- ensure social distancing between customers, performers or exhibitors, and staff
- ensure that customers attend in groups of up to 6 people from different households, or a group of two households (unless an exemption applies) and that groups can be kept separate within the event
- ensure cleanliness in all areas with a focus on touch points and key areas and drawing up cleaning schedules in advance
- robustly log customer data for the purposes of NHS Test and Trace
- ensure they communicate how customers can travel safely to venues in advance of the event, according to the safer travel guidance
Organised events are permitted unless they pose a threat to public health that cannot be mitigated, provided that they follow relevant guidance and adhere to all legal requirements. If local authorities are concerned about an event, they should discuss those concerns with the event organiser at the earliest possible opportunity, and should consider whether any mitigations could be put in place to alleviate risks such as:
- reducing the number of attendees to allow full social distancing and minimise any burden on local transport systems
- staggering entry times with other venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas
- arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues
- advising patrons to follow safer travel guidance, including:
- travelling on quieter routes where possible
- sanitising hands regularly
- wearing a face covering unless exempt
- social distancing where possible
Legal powers to prohibit or restrict an event
Where an event poses a risk to public health or in the event of a local spike in coronavirus cases, local authorities can consider prohibiting, restricting or imposing conditions in respect of venues, events or outdoor public places using the powers available in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020. These powers should only be used if the event, venue or gathering in an outdoor public place poses a serious and imminent threat to public health that cannot be mitigated in conversation with the event organiser.
Any such decision must be both necessary and proportionate. If an event organiser, the owner or occupier of the premise where the event is held or any other person involved in hosting the event goes against such a direction, they can be issued with a fixed penalty notice (FPN) by a police officer, police community support officer or other designated person.
If, by attending a particular event or gathering, an individual is contravening the regulations that have been put in place to control the spread of coronavirus, police officers and PCSOs have the power under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 to direct individuals to leave a location or remove them from that location. This can have the overall effect of shutting down the event if all attendees are dispersed. Individuals deemed to be attending an illegal gathering can be issued with a fixed penalty notice, and organisers of an illegal event with more than 30 attendees could potentially be issued with a £10,000 FPN.
Event organisers could also be issued with fines if they have contravened other business-related regulations of the The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021: these FPNs would be primarily issued by local authority enforcement officers, but can also be issued by police officers, Police Community Support Officers or an individual designated by the local authority or Secretary of State.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): grassroots sports guidance for safe provision including team sport, contact combat sport and organised sport events
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): grassroots sports guidance for the public and sport providers
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on the phased return of elite sport
- Enabling safe and effective volunteering during coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Working safely during coronavirus: heritage locations
- Working safely during coronavirus: performing arts
- Working safely during coronavirus: providers of grassroots sport and sport facilities
- Working safely during coronavirus: visitor economy
Guidance produced in collaboration with stakeholders
- Association of Event Organisers - COVID-19 guidance for event recovery
- Fundraising Regulator - Coronavirus advice for fundraising organisations
- Events Industry Forum - Keeping workers and audiences safe during COVID-19 in the outdoor event industry in England
- Events Industry Forum, Association of Independent Festivals, Association of Festival Organisers - Music Festivals – COVID-19 supplementary guidance
- Meetings Industry Association - COVID-19 business support
- National Museums Directors’ Council - Good practice guidelines on opening museums
- National Youth Agency - NYA COVID-19 guidance
- The Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain - Guidance for risk assessments at funfairs
- UK Cinema Association - Cinemas - keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19
- UK Cinema Association - guidance for cinemas
- UK Hospitality - COVID-19 secure guidelines for hospitality businesses
Other useful information
- Reopening businesses and venues
- Health and Safety Executive - Coronavirus: latest information and advice
People attending drive-in events should remain in their vehicle for the duration of the performance. ↩
Where the festival resembles an outdoor food market or outdoor hospitality venue, but if people are consuming food and drink at the venue, the table service rule would apply. ↩
Professional and non-professional/amateur ↩
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 - the Regulations define “local authority” as meaning county councils, district councils (for areas where there is no county council), London borough councils, the Common Council of the City of London, and the Council of the Isles of Scilly. ↩