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Overview of Covid-19 Restrictions for Musicians

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

Last updated: 09 April 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 released a timeline for the planned relaxation of restrictions up to 22 April. .
  • 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

Alert level 4 restrictions have been in place across Wales since midnight on 19 December, but the Welsh Government has been gradually relaxing some restrictions since the middle of February. On Friday 19 March a revised version of the Coronavirus Control Plan was published that contains further information about the four alert levels and gives a timeline for the planned relaxation of restrictions up to 22 April.

Those changes and dates remain provisional and dependent on the health situation continuing to improve, so 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 Welsh Government has announced that shielding measures for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable should be paused on 31 March. That means that from 1 April people who had been shielding can go to work, if they cannot work from home and the business is Covid-secure, and attend school, when appropriate for their year group.

Updated advice will be issued by Welsh Government on 31 March and letters have been issued to everyone who was shielding.

Unfortunately at the time of writing it remains unclear when live performances with audiences may be able to restart in Wales, but we are in regular, ongoing discussions with Welsh Government about this, along with the other creative unions and other organisations.

The Welsh Government announced a second phase of the Cultural Recovery Fund worth up to £30m on 22 March, which will include a new round of the Freelancer Fund, and we will update members with more detailed information on the application process as soon as we have it.

Teaching

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

Other work

  • From Saturday 13 March theatres and concert halls can be used for the purposes of rehearsals by professional performers without an audience present – it is no longer necessary for them to be linked to a broadcast.
  • The use of rehearsal and recording studios can continue, provided it’s for the purpose of work (whether by professionals or part-time professionals).
  • Ceremonies for weddings, funerals, and other life events (e.g. baptisms, bar mitzvahs) are currently permitted in places of worship and ‘approved premises’ but celebrations or gatherings, including wedding or civil partnership receptions, aren’t allowed. Our understanding is that music and singing is permitted at ceremonies, subject to the relevant guidance.
  • Places of worship are currently allowed to open for communal worship and our understanding is that music and singing is permitted, subject to the relevant guidance.
  • We would currently advise against busking and any other type of live performance with an audience, and also advise against any community or amateur group rehearsals, meetings, recordings, or performances taking place in person (other than in the home of people in the same household or support bubble). We are seeking clarity on when these activities may be able to resume.
  • Restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes, hotels, and conference venues are currently required to stay closed other than for delivery/takeaway or in relation to specific exceptions, so no live performances or other work will be possible in these venues.
  • 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.

From 13 March people in Wales are being asked to ‘stay local’ with a five-mile rule of thumb set out in guidance although the Welsh Government hopes to change this from 27 March, if conditions allow. If you are planning to travel to England or the other UK nations you should check the regulations and guidance for your destination, as there are restrictions in place across the UK.

Scotland’s National Lockdown

Mainland Scotland is currently in lockdown, you can read the Scottish Government’s general stay at home guidance on their website.

Some islands have remained in Alert Level 3. See the Scottish Government’s website for the latest details on which islands remain in level 3, and what this means.

The Scottish Government has now outlined a four-stage approach to the easing of lockdown through to the end of April, when it believes it will be possible for national restrictions to be lifted and for all areas to be placed in Alert Level 3. From that point, there will be a return to a localised approach, with areas moving into lower tiers when it is deemed safe to do so.

Details of permitted activities within each Alert Level can always be found in the current Levels table. Updated Levels tables will be published in March, well in advance of the return to geographically differentiated levels. This is to ensure that up-to-date evidence on the impact of the vaccine programme is used in determining any required changes to the contents of the levels.

Current restrictions relating to musical activities

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, including whilst travelling to the studio.

Live Performance

Live performance in front of an audience is currently not permitted in Scotland.

Education and Teaching

All remaining primary school children are set to return to school full-time from 15 March, with all secondary pupils returning on a part-time basis from that date.

Senior phase students (S4-S6) who are taking national qualifications will have priority for face-to-face lessons in school, but how this works will vary in different areas as Councils decide how to safely balance in-school learning based on local circumstances and needs.

The First Minister has said there is a ‘clear expectation’ that all pupils will return to full-time schooling after the Easter Holidays.

Updated schools safety guidance to support the phased return is due to be published the week commending 8 March, and Education Scotland will also shortly publish practical guidance for schools.

For further information, see our advice on Teaching during Covid-19 for Scotland.

Restrictions in Northern Ireland

A ‘stay at home’ order is currently in place in Northern Ireland and the current regulations will remain in place until 1 April. You can read the regulations guidance on the Government Services website.

The NI Executive published details of its ‘Pathway Out Of Restrictions’ on 2 March. Unlike plans published in England, this blueprint does not include a timetable. Details are contained in a new summary document.

Further announcements are due to be made on 16 March, particularly with regard to further re-opening of schools. For more information on teaching, see our latest advice on teaching during Covid-19 for Northern Ireland.

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