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Overview of Covid-19 Restrictions for Musicians

Different levels of restrictions have been imposed across the four nations.

Last updated: 05 May 2021

The governments of the four nations of the UK are now gradually releasing the details of their roadmaps to easing the Covid-19 lockdowns that have been in place:

  • Scotland has outlined a four-stage approach for the easing of their national lockdown, taking us up to the end of April when regions will broadly be returning to Tier 3.
  • England has had a road map set out for beginning to lift national lockdown from 8 March.
  • Wales has a timeline for the planned relaxation of restrictions up to 17 May.
  • Northern Ireland is under a "stay at home" order until 1 April, with further announcements due to made on 16 March.

Restrictions in England

The Government has published a Spring 2021 Covid-19 response roadmap, which provides a four-step plan for gradually easing lockdown restrictions. The dates currently published for moving to each of the steps, and the related permitted activities relevant to MU members, are listed below.

Intended dates have been provided for moving from each of the four steps to the next, although dates remain provisional as each step will be assessed against four tests before restrictions are eased.

Step 1A: from 8 March 2021

  • Schools and colleges: are open for all students. Practical Higher Education Courses. Please see our Covid Teaching advice page for more details.
  • Studios: remain open for professional recording, rehearsal, broadcast and streamed performance where the venue is Covid-secure. Professional recording, rehearsing, broadcast and streamed performance can also take place in theatres, concert halls, and outdoors, provided this is done in line with Covid-secure guidance.
  • Weddings, wedding receptions, funerals and wakes: Wedding and civil partnership services are only allowed in very limited circumstances (see the Government's guidance for details). Only six guests are allowed at these services and at wakes. 30 guests are allowed at funerals. Musicians are not included in these guest limits. Wedding receptions are not permitted.
  • Theatre and large-scale live performance: Theatres and concert halls are permitted to open for recording, broadcasting and live streaming without an audience, provided this is done in line with Covid-secure guidance.

Step 1B: 29 March 2021

  • Wider private music tuition permitted outdoors in addition to indoor provision in specified circumstances. Please see our Covid Teaching advice page for more details.
  • Weddings, wedding receptions, funerals and wakes: Weddings and civil partnership services will no longer be limited to special circumstances, but guest limits will remain. Only six guests are allowed at these services and at wakes. 30 guests are allowed at funerals. Musicians are not included in these guest limits. Wedding receptions are not permitted.
  • Non-professional ensembles, such as choirs and brass bands, are permitted to rehearse outdoors in groups of no more than six without an audience. Groups should follow the advice provided in the Government’s performing arts guidance.

Step 2: 12 April 2021

  • All music education provision permitted. Please see our Covid Teaching advice page for more details.
  • Drive-in cinema, theatre and other performance events permitted.
  • Weddings, wedding receptions, funerals and wakes: Weddings and civil partnership receptions now permitted, and guest limits increased. Fifteen guests allowed at weddings, civil partnership services and respective receptions, and at Wakes. The guest limit for funeral services remains at thirty. Musicians are not included in these guest limits.
  • Live event pilots scheduled to begin.
  • Pubs to re-open for outdoor service only. Complementary incidental live music will be permitted outdoors only, in adherence with the Government’s guidance for businesses on safe socialising.
  • Events such as village fetes and community fairs will be permitted. Complementary incidental live music will be permitted outdoors only, in adherence with the Government’s guidance on organised events.

Step 3: No earlier than 17 May 2021

  • Indoor live performance permitted with audience limitations (1,000 people or 50% of venue capacity, whichever is lower).
  • Outdoor live performance permitted with audience limitations (4,000 people or 50% of venue capacity, whichever is lower).
  • Large outdoor seated events permitted with audience limitations (10,000 people or 25% of venue capacity, whichever is lower).
  • Life events: A wider range now permitted to include Bar Mitzvahs and Christenings. Guest limit for all life events set at thirty. Musicians are not included in these guest limits.
  • Busking is now permitted.
  • Amateur activity is now permitted.

Step 4: No earlier than 21 June 2021

  • Life events: No limit on guests.
  • Re-opening of all remaining businesses, including nightclubs.
  • Relaxation of limits on live performance events, subject to success of previous steps.

Restrictions in Wales

Wales is currently still in a gradual move from the alert level 4 restrictions that were first introduced at midnight on 19 December to alert level 3.

The most recent Welsh Government announcement on 23 April brought forward some changes compared to the previously planned changes for the relaxation of the rules, so that Wales will be at alert level 3 on 3 May, and then alert level 2 on 17 May.

The changes and dates set out below remain provisional and dependent on the health situation continuing to improve, as well as the outcome of the Senedd elections on 6 May, so they, and the details of how they relate to members’ work, may change.

We recommend that members living and/or working in Wales continue to check the information on the current measures on the Welsh Government website. The guidance below on the activity that is permitted in principle is also dependent on following all the relevant guidance and undertaking risk assessments, as well as any other necessary mitigations, when actually returning to work.

We are still in discussions with Welsh Government about the next round of the Freelancer Fund, which is due to open in May as part of Cultural Recovery Fund 2, and will update members with more detailed information as soon as possible. We are also continuing to seek progress and clarity on when live performances can restart.

Shielding measures for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been paused since 1 April.

Teaching

See our Teaching during Covid-19 in Wales advice for the latest details.

Other work

  • Theatres and concert halls can currently be used for the purposes of rehearsals by professional performances without an audience present. From 17 May theatres and concert halls (as well as other indoor entertainment) will be able to open fully, and we understand that the previously stated maximum capacity of 15 people indoors at alert level 2 is being reconsidered to allow for relative maximum capacities tailored to each venue. Outdoor theatre is covered by the advice on outdoor performance below.
  • Our current understanding is that busking is permitted as long as it doesn’t form a crowd or audience, and anyone listening or watching is transient. However, given that Welsh Government hasn’t published specific guidance on this, and that members have encountered issues with busking in England, members may want to seek confirmation from the relevant local authority that this is also their understanding.
  • Outdoor musical activities for up to 30 people (of any age) are now permitted as part of ‘organised outdoor activities’, subject to following the relevant guidance and carrying out a risk assessment. This includes leisure-time music, but it’s currently unclear if performances to an audience are permitted and we are continuing to seek clarity on this question.
  • Similarly, our current understanding is that organised indoor musical activities for up to 15 adults, including leisure-time music, will be permitted as part of ‘indoor activities’ from 3 May.
  • Outdoor hospitality can now reopen but live performances and singing are not permitted (unlike in England), while recorded music should be kept at background level. Indoor hospitality will be permitted to reopen on 17 May but we don’t have any confirmation on when live performances will be allowed and are continuing to seek progress and clarity on that issue.
  • Outdoor wedding and civil partnership receptions, as well as wakes, are now permitted for up to 30 people (not including children aged under 11 or carers), but must not take place in the gardens or grounds of private homes. We hope that anyone working at the reception or wake – including musicians – will not be included in the 30 people permitted to attend, but are waiting for that to be confirmed by the relevant guidance.
  • Places of worship are currently allowed to open for communal worship and our understanding is that music and singing (but not congregational singing) are permitted, subject to the relevant guidance.
  • Community centres, youth centres, and similar premises are currently required to stay closed, with the exception of opening to provide essential voluntary services or, at the request of local authority or Welsh Ministers, public services. These exemptions are unlikely to include members’ work but further details can be found on the Welsh Government website.
  • The use of rehearsal and recording studios can continue, provided it’s for the purpose of work (whether by professionals or part-time professionals). We expect amateur musicians will be able to use rehearsal and recording studios from 3 May, when organised indoor activities for up to 15 adults will be permitted.
  • There are currently no restrictions on travel within Wales.
  • Anyone who cannot work from home can collect or order free lateral flow tests. Members may also be able to get lateral flow tests from a school, college, nursery, or university that they work at.
  • Members may also find the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 workforce risk assessment tool helpful.

Other future changes

  • From 3 May community centres will be able to reopen.
  • From 17 May organised activities, that we expect should include musical activity as set out above, as well as wedding receptions, will be able to accommodate a maximum of 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.

Scotland’s National Lockdown

The First Minister has released a set of indicative dates for the further easing of restrictions in the coming weeks.

Members can find an overview of the updated protection levels and timetable on the Scottish Government’s website.

The indicative dates for easing restrictions (subject to data) are currently –

  • 17 May when it is expected that Scotland will move to Level 2
  • 7 June Scotland is expected to move to Level 1
  • Late June Scotland is expected to move to Level 0

With regards to live performance, it has been advised that concert halls and venues will likely be able to reopen from 17 May (with restrictions on capacity) for more detailed information please see the Scottish Government ‘Events Sector Guidance’.

Members may also find the following sections useful on the Scottish Government’s website:

We are currently awaiting clarification from the Scottish Government on guidance relating to live music at wedding receptions and live incidental/background music, we will update members in due course.

Live Performance

Live performance in front of an audience is currently not permitted in Scotland under level 3 restrictions.

Private Tuition

In accordance with the ‘Organised Activities for Children’ Guidance, private tuition is able to take place in people’s homes, with relevant mitigations, in levels 0-3.

Tutors should carry out their own appropriate risk assessments and should ensure appropriate hygiene measures, physical distancing and use of face coverings, are in place. This can include one-to-one tuition for non-wind instruments, or woodwind or brass instruments where extra precautions are taken to lower the risk eg. large room, well ventilated and keeping records to support contact tracing.

Where your workplace is also your own home, or another setting, these activities should be considered referring to COVID-19 guidance on small and micro businesses.

Recording

Recording studios and recording activities are permitted in Scotland for the purpose of work by professional musicians, where the activities cannot be done at home. It is important that all the relevant Covid-safety guidelines are followed

Restrictions in Northern Ireland

Currently theatres and concert halls are permitted to open for rehearsals or a live recording without an audience.

From 23 April:

  • Outdoor visitor attractions and activity centres may reopen. This includes drive-in cinemas and performances.
  • Outdoor static band practice/rehearsal permitted.

From 24 May (Indicative date only):

Indoor visitor and cultural attractions can reopen however music venues are not currently included (subject to review).

The current regulations will be reviewed on 13 May 2021. See more information on the regulations on the Northern Ireland Executive’s website.

A summary guide outlining what the coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Protection regulations mean for you is also available on the Northern Ireland Executive’s website.

Private Tuition

Music lessons and private tutoring are permitted in NI, as long as social distancing is maintained and there is no close contact.

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