Following the announcement that the Government is to introduce the Plan B measures to help control the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant, Brass Bands England (BBE) has outlined the implications for brass bands.
The confirmed implications are:
Face coverings will now be required in most public indoor venues where concerts are taking place. This means that event organisers are responsible to ensure that audience members, unless exempt, are wearing appropriate facemasks. This will apply to most concerts.
Working from home (From Monday 13 December)
Whilst this guidance does not explicitly mean band rehearsals cannot take place, bands should urgently review their risk assessments to reflect the updated risks, particularly if rehearsing either indoors, without 2m distancing, without sufficient ventilation or without other mitigating measures such as barriers/bell covers. In some cases it would be reasonable to assume that activity that has taken place in recent months might no longer be acceptable whilst home working is recommended.
Use of NHS Covid Passes
This will only apply to venues where large crowds gather. The conditions where the use is required are:
- Unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees
- Unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees
- And any event with more than 10,000 attendees
Whilst this requirement will affect very few brass band events, Covid passes can be used at an event of any size. BBE recommends that bands assess whether they should be used as part of their risk assessment of any event they run.
These measures are set to be inplace for at least six weeks with a review after three weeks.
Playing in commercial spaces without facemasks
After many questions relating to playing in supermarkets and other public spaces at this time of year, BBE has been in contact with the DCMS about the restrictions on facemasks while playing in retail environments. The DCMS has, unfortunately, been unable to offer advice so far, as it is not clear in the legislation. However, there are general guideline exemptions where it is not practical to wear a mask, such as when playing an instrument. Due to this, BBE understands that it is currently acceptable to perform and play in indoor spaces without masks although they should be used at all times when not playing.
BBE understands that many members have had varying experiences when approaching supermarkets and other prospective carolling venues. Bands are reminded that, under the current regulations, it is up to each venue to risk assess their own spaces and activities and so that while we understand there is no explicit reason bands cannot perform, each venue will be making its own arrangements, which should be respected.
BBE also continues to recommend that, where possible, bands perform outdoors where the risk of transmission is significantly lower.
BBE team response
With immediate effect, BBE staff have returned to home working and cancelled our own staff Christmas lunch, originally scheduled for next Thursday. Steps have been taken to ensure continuity of service and staff are working at home to answer your questions as well as maintain all our work and services, but please bear in mind that staff are again adjusting to the new arrangements.
BBE encourages its members to ensure they continue to assess the risks of activity and have measures in place to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of members whilst they take part in the activity provided.
BBE will continue to keep guidance up to date as any new measures are introduced. However, the guidelines set out in Working Safely During Coronavirus (COVID-19): Events and Attractions Guidance from Step 4’ should still be followed. This includes the six priority actions:
- Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes risks from COVID-19.
- Provide adequate ventilation. (particularly now it is cold and there is a temptation to close the door or windows)
- Clean more often
- Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms
- Enable people to check in at your venue.
- Communicate and train
BBE also recommends:
- Use masks during entry/exit and when not playing.
- Consider if activity remains appropriate given the change in risks
- Use covid passes or testing at both rehearsals and performances
- Consider the mitigations that might help venues and audiences feel comfortable with your presence playing
- Perform outdoors where possible or given the choice
Further Covid-19 guidance for brass bands, resources and risk assessment templates can be found on the BBE website