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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 a five protection level approach to the rules depending on the area.
  • England is currently at Step 4 of the Government's roadmap to lift the national lockdown 
  • Wales is now at alert level 2
  • Northern Ireland has set out the rules due for review in July

Restrictions and permitted activities in England

On the 19 July England moves to step 4 of the Government’s published Spring 2021 Covid-19 response roadmap for easing restrictions on permitted activities. Here we highlight the changes relevant to musicians.

Social distancing

  • There is now no limit on the number of people who can meet, either indoors or outdoors – although you are encouraged to meet outdoors where possible.
  • 2 meter or 1+ meter social distancing guidance has been removed (except for in a small number of specified situations, like at Passport Control).
  • There is now no legal requirement to wear face masks, although the government still recommends their use – especially in crowded and/or indoor situations, such as on a train or tube.

It is worth noting that employers and engagers are still legally required to conduct risk assessments for any work scenario, and as Covid-19 has not gone away, they are obliged to consider it as a risk and employ necessary mitigations against its spread. Meaning many mitigations will need to be retained, at least whilst Covid-19 cases remain at the current high level.

Events

  • There is now no limit on audience numbers for events, concerts and shows.
  • There is now no limit on attendees at weddings, funerals or other life events.
  • There are no restrictions on numbers for communal worship.
  • There are no restrictions on rehearsing for either professional or amateur groups or choirs.
  • All venues, including nightclubs, can now re-open to the public.
  • The requirement for table-service only in pubs has been removed.
  • Venues and businesses are encouraged to use the NHS COVID Pass to check people are fully vaccinated (although it is not a legal requirement).

Music education

In addition to the social distancing changes above, on 16 August it is planned to remove other COVID-19 restrictions applicable to schools:

  • Class / year group “bubbles” will no longer be required.
  • Under 18s will only have to self-isolate if they test positive themselves, not if they come into contact with someone who subsequently does so. Instead, they will be required to take a PCR test.
  • Start / End times for schools will no longer need to be staggered.
  • Schools will be required to offer pupils two COVID-19 tests at the start of the Autumn term.

For further information please see our Covid Teaching advice page.

NHS Test and Trace

  • From 16 August fully vaccinated adults will no longer be required to self-isolate if they have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19. Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test.

Restrictions and permitted activities in Wales

Update: from 28 May 2021 the hospitality guidance has been changed to allow music and live performances above background level, and therefore permit live performances indoors in a broader range of settings/venues. This is set out in point 17 on pages 6-7 of the UK Hospitality guidance for hospitality in Wales. It’s currently unclear how this change will affect some settings, venues and contexts, but we will provide more information as soon as we can – and the information below on ensuring that any work follows the relevant guidance still applies.

Wales is now at alert level 2 as of 17 May. The changes and dates set out remain provisional and dependent on the health situation continuing to improve, so they, and the details of how they relate to musicians’ work, may change.

We recommend that musicians living 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.

Please also note that 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

  • In addition to the specific guidance referred to below, members should refer to the general guidance for rehearsing, performing, and taking part in the performing arts, as well as the more general FAQs, the guidance for business, and taking all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to Coronavirus.
  • 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 will be able to open to the public, 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.
  • Organised musical activities (such as rehearsals) are now permitted to take place outdoors (for up to 30 people of any age) and indoors (for up to 15 people aged 11 and over) as part of ‘organised activities’. This includes leisure-time music, and is subject to following the relevant guidance, carrying out a risk assessment and putting any necessary mitigations in place.
  • Our understanding is that rehearsal and recording studios can now be used by amateur/leisure-time musicians as part of organised indoor activities for up to 15 adults, as well as for the purpose of work (whether by professionals or part-time professionals).
  • However, it’s currently unclear if live performances with an audience are permitted as part of ‘organised activities’. We are continuing to seek clarity on this question from Welsh Government and have highlighted the need for our members – and the creative industries more broadly - to return to some form of live performance as soon as possible.
  • 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.
  • Wedding and civil partnership receptions, as well as wakes, are permitted for up to 30 people outdoors or 15 people indoors (not including children aged under 11 or carers), but must take place in regulated premises and not in private homes, or in the gardens or grounds of private homes. The guidance for receptions and celebration events states that staff and third party suppliers, including professional musicians, are not included in the maximum numbers except where social distancing reduces the venue-specific capacity below the maximum capacity for the current alert level, although this does not specifically refer to wakes.
  • Ceremonies for weddings, funerals, and other life events are permitted in places of worship as well as ‘approved premises’ and regulated premises. The number of people who are able to attend a wedding, civil partnership, funeral, or life event indoors is limited by the capacity of the venue taking into account social distancing measures.
  • There is specific information relating to music at ceremonies, funerals, and receptions/celebration events that members should refer to in addition to the performing arts guidance.
  • Places of worship are currently allowed to open for communal worship and life event ceremonies and our understanding is that music and singing (but not congregational singing) are permitted, subject to the relevant guidance.
  • Community centres can now open.
  • 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 17 May organised activities will be able to accommodate a maximum of 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors and indoor hospitality as well as cinemas, theatres, and museums, will be permitted to open.

Restrictions and permitted activities in Scotland

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

There are five Covid-19 protection levels (0-4). The rules you will have to follow will depend on the level for your council area.

The First Minister has announced that from 19 July all of Scotland will move into Level 0.

Confirming the change to Level 0, the First Minister urged people to adhere to protective measures and sensible precautions to suppress coronavirus (Covid-19) to help create conditions that allow Scotland to move beyond Level 0 on 9 August. From 00:01 on Monday 19 July, physical distancing in Level 0 will reduce to 1 metre in all indoor public settings and outdoors. Additionally, informal social gatherings of up to 15 people from 15 households will be permitted outdoors without physical distancing. Gatherings of up to 10 people from four households will be permitted in all indoor public settings with 1 metre physical distancing.

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

Live performance

Small scale outdoor and indoor events are permitted (subject to capacity) under levels 0-2, for further information please see the Scottish Government ‘Events Sector Guidance’.

Live events and focused entertainment will take place in line with their own relevant guidance. Please refer to guidance for the performing arts and venues sector and events sector guidance for further information on focused live music/events entertainment.

Discos, silent discos, karaoke and other activities that require general singing or dancing are not permitted at this time.

Live background music in hospitality settings

Live entertainment will be possible in general hospitality from Level 0 where physical distancing in indoor public spaces is standardised at 1 metre.

If live entertainment is being provided in bar and restaurant spaces then statutory guidance for hospitality still applies, including at seat service and socialising rules for indoor public spaces. If live entertainment is provided in dedicated events spaces in hospitality, such as a function hall or conference room, then this can be planned under events and or performing arts guidance.

It is expected that premises will be mindful of ongoing mitigations in hospitality and the need for 1 metre physical distancing to be observed. The Scottish Government have advised that very loud music may cause a hazard if customers have to lean-in to be heard or have to shout to communicate. It is therefore recommended at this time that, as part of assessing risk, volume is given careful consideration and set at a level commensurate with the setting.

For further information please refer to the Tourism and Hospitality sector guidance

Weddings and funerals

Low-level background music is allowed at receptions while people are eating and talking. Live entertainment is also allowed at receptions when guests are watching and listening (guests should remain seated). Scottish country dancing and ceilidhs are not permitted at this time.

For more information refer to Scottish Government Covid-19 guidance.

At wedding ceremonies in all COVID-19 protection level areas, low-level pre-recorded background music is allowed. A solo singer or musician can perform, for example a bagpiper can play while guests or the couple are arriving. Additionally, at ceremonies in Level 0, 1 or 2 areas a small group of singers and/or musicians can perform - make sure you agree any arrangements with the person responsible for the venue

At protection levels 0-2, a small group of singers and/or musicians can perform at a funeral service. In all cases, this is provided the appropriate mitigations and safeguards are in place, in line with the risk assessment based approach set out in the performing arts guidance. Any music at a funeral service should not take place at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.

Teaching

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

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 and permitted activities in Northern Ireland

An indicative date of 26 July has been set for the reopening of theatres and indoor seated venues for performances and the return of live music indoors with no restrictions on sound levels.

Entry to theatre, concerts and other types of performances will be by ticket only, bought in advance.

Audiences for indoor events must have allocated seating and guests must stay seated (unless using facilities). Social distancing of one metre will be required and live music is permitted at outdoor events, without restriction to volume from 29 July.

Dancing is not permitted for audience members.

The indicative date of 26 July is subject to review on 22 July.

For more information on the regulations, refer to guidance on the NI direct website.

Find out about the Arts Council NI guidance on safe reopening of performance venues.

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