COVID-19: suggested principles of safer singing

Published 20 November 2020

This guidance was withdrawn on

Applies to England

What we know about singing and COVID-19

We have evidence that:

  • several outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been associated with adult choir rehearsals and performances and in church congregations across the world
  • singing by adults produces both large droplets of respiratory secretions that generally fall onto surfaces within 2 metres of the singer, and small droplets that are carried on the air for some distance (aerosols)
  • singing and speaking at a similar level of loudness produce similar masses of aerosol
  • shouting or singing loudly can produce 20-times the mass of aerosol than speaking at a normal level of loudness
  • children, like adults, produce a far greater mass of aerosol when they shout or sing loudly
  • some adults produce a much greater mass of aerosol than others when speaking or singing at a similar level of loudness (‘super-emitters’)
  • wearing face coverings reduces the mass of aerosol expelled when singing
  • laboratory data suggest that the virus can remain infectious for timescales longer than the usual duration of rehearsals or concerts, once released into the air
  • ventilation is a useful way of removing aerosol and minimising its concentration in the air
  • the probability of infectious virus shedding – and hence the risk of transmission – increases with the number of people who sing at an event
  • the risk of onward transmission increases with the number of people who attend an event and its duration

We do not have evidence for:

  • the relative importance of the different routes by which people at singing events became infected (from contaminated surfaces, from large droplets, or from aerosols)
  • whether choir-related outbreaks are the result of a single source super-spreading event or multiple infectious individuals
  • how much virus is contained within aerosol droplets
  • how to identify super-emitters
  • the degree to which wearing face coverings during singing reduces transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19

Suggested principles of safer singing

Taking account of the evidence, and if other national and local guidance on the control of COVID-19 is followed, singing is considered safer when the following actions are taken:

  1. As required by national guidance, people with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, or who are known to have been in recent contact with others who have COVID-19, do not participate in singing or attend singing events.
  2. Singing takes place only in larger well-ventilated spaces, or outdoors.
  3. Performance or rehearsal is for limited periods of time at a reduced level of loudness, using microphones for amplification if available.
  4. Limited numbers of people sing together.
  5. Singers are spaced at least 2 metres apart in all directions (at least 1 metre apart if the additional measures or controls recommended in government COVID-19 guidance for the performing arts are applied).

Additional precautionary actions

Based on the evidence available to us now, it is not possible to be certain that wearing a face covering whilst singing reduces the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. However, since face coverings have been shown to reduce the mass of aerosol expelled during singing, their use might be considered as additional precautionary mitigation, where this is practicable.

Detailed guidance and COVID-19 advice is available.