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The emergence of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant and the subsequent increase in cases across the UK has led the governments of the UK nations to introduce new measures and restrictions, which we know have already resulted in members losing work.

Although the restrictions do not in themselves require the closure of venues or the cancellation of events, it is clear that the knock-on impact of people being asked to work from home and of the increase in COVID cases is already having an impact.

  • Our in-house solicitor has provided some advice regarding cancelled gigs.
  • The MU has written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to ask that targeted financial support be considered for musicians who lose work during this period.
  • We will keep a close eye on rules and restrictions over the next weeks and months and provide updates when possible, including sector specific advice where necessary and possible.
  • Contact us in the first instance if you require advice or support.
  • Please also remember that if you haven’t previously applied for the MU’s Coronavirus Hardship Fund, you can still do so up until the end of the year. In addition, MU Benevolent Fund grants will be available to members suffering financial hardship as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic from 1 January 2022. You can apply to the Benevolent Fund by email via your Regional Office and applications will be processed early in the New Year. 

Browse the current COVID rules by nation: 

Rules in Wales

Welsh Government has updated its guidance and is now strongly advising everyone to follow the five key measures below in the run-up to Christmas:

  1. Get vaccinated – and if you’ve had your booster appointment, please make attending your priority.
  2. If you’re going out, going Christmas shopping or visiting people – flow before you go. Take a lateral flow test. If it’s positive – don’t go out.
  3. Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
  4. Space out your socialising – if you’ve got events arranged, please leave at least a day between them.
  5. And don’t forget about social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands.

It is also a requirement to work from home wherever possible.

New measures coming into force in Wales on Boxing Day, 26 December

On 22 December the Welsh Government announced that further restrictions and guidance, based on a revised version of Alert Level 2 from earlier in 2021, coming into force on Boxing Day, 26 December, along with the previously announced measures set out.

We are waiting for further information and detailed guidance, including on financial support to accompany the new measures, to be announced and published in the next few days. We know that members are likely to have questions about the new restrictions and will update this page as soon as possible but may not be able to do so, or give clear answers to members’ questions, until we have further information. Please check the Welsh Government website for the latest information and guidance.

Unfortunately the new measures will impact musicians’ work and the broader culture, arts, and creative sector in Wales. We have stressed the need to provide financial support to freelance and self-employed people, including musicians, as well as organisations, including grassroots music venues, affected by the latest restrictions, to Welsh Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

New restrictions

From Sunday 26 December new restrictions are coming in place, including a 2-meter rule on social distancing in offices; extra measures to protect customers and staff such as physical barriers and one-way systems; and a requirement for nightclubs to close. Learn more about the new advice for the Christmas period in Wales.

£120m will be available to support businesses affected by the new restrictions. Welsh Government provided further information on 23 December regarding the support package they are making available.

It has now also been announced that sports events in Wales will be played behind closed doors from Boxing Day, with a £3m fund to support affected clubs and sports venues

The Covid Pass scheme is still in operation in Wales, but anyone using the pass will need to login and get a new copy of their pass.

There has been a significant amount of confusion, uncertainty, and misinformation about the restrictions and guidance in Wales, partly due to the changes and processes in England, so please check the Welsh Government website for accurate information.

We know that the current situation and the advice above will affect musicians’ work and the broader music/arts/culture sector in Wales even without the introduction of further restrictions and guidance. We have been lobbying Welsh Government for further financial support for members and businesses in the music industry in Wales, making it clear that is needed already regardless of any additional restrictions that are introduced, and will continue to do so.

Please let us know if/how the guidance and restrictions in Wales, as well as more general issues like consumer confidence and isolation requirements, are affecting your work to support our lobbying.

You may find this information and guidance helpful:

Vaccine and boosters

  • In Wales booster jabs are mainly being delivered through appointments, so that they can be prioritised, rather than through walk-in sessions. All eligible adults will be contacted by their health board with their booster appointment, and you do not need to contact your health board unless you need to re-book.
  • Welsh Government is asking employers to be as flexible as possible to enable staff to attend their vaccination/booster appointment.

Self isolation

  • The guidance on self-isolation is different in Wales compared to England. For instance, at the time of writing fully vaccinated adults and young people aged between 5 and 17 should self-isolate if someone in their household has symptoms or has tested positive unless and until they receive a negative PCR test result. Please read the information on the Welsh Government website for full details.
  • People on a low income who cannot work from home while self-isolating could get a payment of £750 to help with loss of earnings. Please read the information on the Welsh Government website for full details.

Schools

  • There will now be two additional planning days at the start of the spring term in January.
  • Schools have been advised to plan that mitigations from January onwards are based on the “Very High” risk level in the Local Infection Control Decision Framework for schools, and will be allowed operate staggered start and finish times from the start of the spring term time if they determine it is appropriate.
  • Face coverings should be worn by staff and visitors in all indoor areas of educational settings where physical distance cannot be maintained; worn by secondary aged learners in the same places; and worn by secondary learners on school transport. Learn more about core interventions to be implemented in Wales.

Find more on our advice on music teaching in Wales.

Rules in Scotland

In the light of the Omicron variant and concerns over high levels of transmissibility, the Scottish Government maintain that ramping up the vaccine program will be insufficient in terms of measures to tackle the current rise in the Omicron variant and that further restrictions will be required.

People have been urged to limit their socialising both at home and indoor public spaces and to limit the number of households mixing to a maximum of three. People are being asked to test regularly and before meeting others and to allow staff to work from home, wherever possible.  Further, businesses are being asked to return to the kind of protections introduced at the start of the pandemic such as physical distancing and table service in bars. Some of these new measures became enforceable by law on Friday 17 December.

The impact of these latest developments is large numbers of cancellations of parties, gigs and shows and members should contact their Regional Office should they require advice.

New measures coming into force in Scotland on Boxing Day, 26 December

  • Outdoor events have been limited to numbers of 500 people.
  • Indoor events will be limited to 100 people if standing and 200 people seated.
  • Physical distancing of 1 meter will be required where these events do proceed.
  • These measures do not include weddings, funerals, civil partnerships or other milestone events.

Details have been announced of the breakdown of the £21m support package from the Scottish Government which has been allocated to culture and events organisations experiencing cancellations due to the rapid spread of Omicron and the subsequent limitations around social distancing and numbers permitted to attend events.

The funds will be allocated as follows:

  • £10.2 million for cultural organisations and venues to be administered by Creative Scotland
  • £2.8 million towards the wider events supply chain to be administered by EventScotland.
  • £8 million for the Cancellation Fund for Creative Freelancers to be administered by Creative Scotland.

Creative freelancers can apply for a one-off award of between £500 and £2,000 from the Cancellation Fund which will not replace lost income, will provide a contribution to partially offset some of the impact. The fund opens at 2pm on Thursday, 6 January 2022 and further details can be found here.

The following guidance has been updated:

Read more on the Coronavirus guidance in Scotland.

Rules in England

The Government has introduced measures which reduce the Covid self-isolation period to seven days in most cases.

The new guidance provides that the 10-day self-isolation period for vaccinated and unvaccinated people in England who have tested positive for coronavirus can be reduced by three days if they get the all-clear from lateral flow tests.

People who receive negative results from tests taken 24 hours apart on day six and day seven of their self-isolation period will no longer have to self-isolate for the full 10 days.

However, those who are not fully vaccinated will still have to isolate for the full 10 days if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

Read more on the Coronavirus guidance in England

Rules in Northern Ireland

New restrictions to tacks the rise in Omicron cases have been announced in Northern Ireland following a Government meeting today.

As of Sunday 26 December:

  • Nightclubs to close at 0600 until further notice
  • All indoor standing events prohibited, including concerts
  • No dancing in hospitality (does not apply to weddings)

From Monday 27 December

  • Maximum of 6 people and table service in hospitality venues
  • Further Guidance to work from home
  • People urged to reduce household mixing to three households
  • No change to sporting events at this time

These changes do not apply to weddings or funerals. Ministers are working on a financial package and continue to press West Minster for further support.

Read more on the Coronavirus guidance in Northern Ireland

Latest Covid-19 news

Traffic caution sign for school against a bright background with blue sky and green trees.

Concerns Over Proposals to Suspend School Music Lessons

Ofqual boss Ian Bauckham has suggested that schools might consider emergency timetable changes in response to the Omicron surge, that would see music teachers redeployed to other subjects. We advocate strongly against this idea.

Published: 06 January 2022

Read more about Concerns Over Proposals to Suspend School Music Lessons
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