A comedy club in Liverpool is hosting the UK’s first non-socially distanced event for more than a year with 300 people – relying on before-and-after testing to ensure it’s COVID-safe.
The Hot Water Comedy club’s two-hour event will be held at the city’s M&S Bank Arena later this month as part of an official test scheme with COVID-19 screening before and after.
Founder Paul Blair said the event is part of a Liverpool pilot scheme – separate to the vaccine passport trial which is to run at nine events including some football matches.
“It is sort of the opposite of the vaccine passport programme,” he told Sky News.
He said the point of the pilot scheme is to “prove events like this are safe” and to pave the way for more events to reopen after restrictions ease on 21 June.
Boris Johnson is set to reveal his plan for a “COVID status certification” scheme to enable the safe return of mass gatherings and indoor events as lockdown measures gradually ease in England.
The event will be the first with no social distancing for the first time in the UK since mid-March last year and will take place in the 1,300 seater auditorium.
However, just 300 people will attend, flocking to the stage area of the venue.
Mr Blair said members of the audience will not be required to take a COVID test right before the event, but will have to take a lateral flow test three days beforehand to prove they are negative.
“They will also have to have a follow-up test after the event at some point – three to four days after,” he explained.
He added: “The sole purpose of this trial is to prove that events and venues likes ours are safe. So this is going to be used as evidence that on 21 June, when things are due to be opening without restrictions, to prove it is safe to do that.
“So it’s sort of like the opposite of the vaccine passport programme – where people will not need to prove anything.
“This will all lead into the current roadmap when restrictions are eased and to get events open as quick as possible.”
Mr Blair said it is “vital” to prove such events are safe.
He said the club spent thousands to make events COVID-secure when restrictions were temporarily lifted last year.
“We spent about £30,000 on our main venue to make it COVID secure – we had extra staff on hand every night to do the track and trace and checking in with the NHS app every night – and we never had a single case linked back to us,” he said.
“We wanted to do this to have something on the record to prove it is safe – because we know it is – and we want to pave the way for all events to reopen.”
Four comedians will perform at the show on 16 April – which will last around two hours with intervals.
Mr Blair said his scheme was initially “bundled” with the vaccine passport trial which sparked “negative backlash” and lead to some people trying to boycott the club and ask for refunds.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport included a number of Liverpool events like the Hot Water Comedy club’s event on an initial list of pilots, and said: “The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation.
“COVID-status certification will also be trialled as part of the pilot programme.”
However, a spokesman for Liverpool City Council said on Sunday: “The line which was briefed out yesterday by the government about Liverpool’s events being included in the vaccine passports trials is incorrect – none of our events in Liverpool will involve them.”
The Liverpool pilots also include the Luna Cinema on the Waterfront (three shows), The Good Business Festival Presents: Change Business for Good at ACC Liverpool, and the Circus Club.
The aim of the scheme is to develop and pilot the logistics of event ticketing and testing, venue admittance and post-event follow-up, according to Liverpool council.