British music and events industry backs COVID-19 certification scheme

LONDON, April 23 (Reuters) - London's Royal Albert Hall, the O2 concert space and dozens of venues and events organisations backed a COVID-19 certification scheme to help reopen the economy ahead of the results of a government consultation.

Britain's government is examining the role that certifying the COVID-free status of people attending shows and other events could play in its plans to lift most pandemic restrictions by June 21.

On Friday, groups including gig organisers and indoor sports venues published a letter supporting the use of such a scheme.

"We would support a blanket, industry-wide introduction of COVID-status certification on a temporary basis, to permit the full relaxation of capacity limits from 21 June," the letter, signed by over 50 organisations and institutions, said.

"(It) could be a pragmatic solution that would enable events to resume at commercially viable attendance levels and will also give further confidence to customers that events are safe to attend."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that any such scheme would look beyond vaccination status, suggesting that proof of a negative test or prior infection would play a role in the system. Senior minister Michael Gove is leading a review to see how the system could work.

Some lawmakers, including some from Johnson's Conservative Party, have said such a scheme could be discriminatory and have questioned how practical they are.

But the signatories of the letter said that without COVID-19 certification, re-opening venues would not be financially viable.

From May 17, the government aims to let venues reopen with social distancing and a maximum indoor capacity of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is the lower number.

"However, given the economic threshold for most business and music events is around 80% of maximum capacity, activities under these limits will be far from sufficient to end the sector's financial crisis," the letter said.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout Editing by William Schomberg)

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