The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that rapid lateral flow testing could enable nightclubs to reopen.
With the UK currently in its third lockdown and dance music lifestyle culture one of the hardest-hit sectors, it’s welcome news that there may be a solution on the horizon.
The PM has said that “rapid” lateral flow tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”. Whereas many sectors have been able to continue trading, albeit, with restrictions, theatre and nightclubs have been shut since the beginning of the first UK lockdown in March last year.
Johnson continued “That (rapid testing), in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward,” he told a Downing Street news conference.
But Mr Johnson was keen to emphasise that it was “still early days”, with “lots of discussions still to be had”. A government source said: “There is a long way to go before we can get people back at big events safely.”
It comes as Mr Johnson said people must be “optimistic but patient” about an end to coronavirus restrictions in England.
Nadhim Zahawi, vaccines minister, stated the government favoured testing over vaccine passports as a means to reopen the economy since it is not yet clear whether a vaccinated individual can transmit the virus.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said “We have a couple of very large-scale studies related to giving us better data on the vaccines. We should be able to see really good data in the next few weeks from those studies.”
The boss of the Night Time Industries, Michael Kill, said administering rapid tests would not be straightforward, even if it was to pave the way to reopenings across the nighttime economy.
He told the BBC that professionals would have to administer swab tests outside a venue, where clubbers would need to wait for at least 15 minutes to get a negative result before being allowed in. That would force venues to stagger admissions and have procedures in place to deal with positive cases and those with who they came into contact with. Despre the obvious hurdles he welcomed Mr Johnson’s announcement going on to say:
“Finally we have some acknowledgement from the prime minister and government on the existence of late-night economy businesses, including nightclubs, theatres, casinos and late bars, particularly as they are some of the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic,” he said.
Sacha Lord, who co-founded Manchester’s Parklife Festival, elaborated further:
“The night-time and live music industry has been discussing the need for on-site rapid testing for over five months, and we have suggested this on multiple occasions to MPs and during Select Committee hearings,” he said.
“My fear is that they take another five months to get moving, which the industry simply doesn’t have.”