A programme of events testing how crowds can safely return to venues was thrown into confusion this week as the government and event organisers disagreed with each other on whether “clinically extremely vulnerable” (CEV) people are banned from attending.
At least two of the sports and cultural events have publicly made it clear that anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 cannot attend.
These include the world snooker championships and a live music event at Sefton Park (pictured), Liverpool, on 2 May, organised by Festival Republic, which was added to the programme of test events this week.
The confusion over these bans came as the UK Disability Arts Alliance described them as “blatant discrimination” and “fundamentally at odds with the values of the cultural sector”.
Festival Republic has said that those who have been told they are CEV “cannot attend this event”, while the organisers of the snooker championships have told CEV people that “it is not possible for us to allow you to attend this event”.
Another event, football’s Carabao Cup final, has stopped just short of an outright ban, with supporters warned that they “should not apply to attend this fixture if they are clinically extremely vulnerable”.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which is overseeing the Events Research Programme (ERP), refused last week to say if there was an outright ban on CEV people attending the test events.
But yesterday (Wednesday), a DCMS press officer finally confirmed that the government had not imposed a ban but was instead advising CEV people not to attend the events, in line with Public Health England and Department of Health and Social Care guidance.
He said this was a decision made by the Science Board, whose members are cross-government chief scientific advisors and leading external scientists.
He pointed to the government guidance, which states that CEV people are “advised not to attend the pilot events given the fact that some of the pilots in the ERP will be testing non-social distancing and the safety risk associated with the relaxation of NPIs [non-pharmaceutical interventions]”.
The guidance says the Science Board has “agreed that given the nature of the pilot programme it would not be possible for those high-risk categories to safely participate”.
Organisers of some of the test events are insisting that this advice means that CEV people are banned from attending.
Festival Republic, which has banned all CEV people from the Sefton Park event, insisted that this is “following all protocols as directed by the DCMS”.
A Festival Republic spokesperson later insisted: “As advised by the Science Board, clinically vulnerable people cannot attend the event.
“This is not a decision made by Festival Republic.”
The World Snooker Tour – which runs the world snooker championships, and has also banned CEV people – had failed to comment on its ban by noon today (Thursday).
But last week, when asked to comment on the ban, it referred Disability News Service (DNS) to a DCMS statement which stated that “it would not be suitable on health grounds for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to attend”.
Last year, the UK Disability Arts Alliance launched #WeShallNotBeRemoved, to campaign for an inclusive recovery of the cultural sector, and to ensure that Deaf and disabled people do not face discrimination as the industry reopens.
The alliance has described the world snooker championships as an “inaccessible and discriminatory event” which “sends disability rights back decades”.
Andrew Miller, co-founder of the alliance, who has just completed three years as the government’s disability champion for the arts and culture sector, has himself described the decision of the championships to ban pregnant women, under-18s and CEV people as “absolutely discriminatory and unacceptable”.
Last year, the alliance produced its Seven Inclusive Principles guide to support the sector in achieving a recovery from pandemic lockdowns that was “inclusive of disabled people”.
The alliance told DNS this week: “The principles are clear that reopening must comply with the requirements of the 2010 Equality Act – there can be no exceptions to this, it is the law.
“We think it is right for the government to take a lead in testing event environments to identify safe models to allow the cultural sector to reopen.
“But we question the extent the government takes account of disabled people’s views in its Events Research Programme and why this programme appears entitled to break the law.
“Given that two thirds of the pandemic’s death toll have been disabled people, we are deeply disappointed that our already traumatised community is facing such immediate and blatant discrimination.”
Meanwhile, football’s FA Cup final on 15 May at Wembley Stadium is also part of the ERP.
A Football Association spokesperson said this week that it was too early to answer detailed questions about the event and whether CEV people would be banned.
But he said in a statement: “We continue to work with the DCMS and all our stakeholders in the lead up to the FA Cup final.
“We are aiming to be as inclusive as possible, while ensuring that the limited number of spectators can attend safely during the ongoing pandemic.
“The clubs and their supporters’ groups will also be contacted during this process and we will provide further details as soon as possible.”
*For sources of information and support during the coronavirus crisis, visit the DNS advice and information page
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