UK: Mass Testing For A Return To Capacity

Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a virtual press conference at Downing Street, London, Sept. 9.
Stefan Rousseau- WPA Pool/Getty Images
– Prime Minister Boris Johnson at a virtual press conference at Downing Street, London, Sept. 9.
As from Monday, Sept. 14, people in England will only be allowed to socialise in groups of six or less people.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced that his government is working to find a quick mass testing solution, which would allow venues to reopen without forcing audiences to maintain distance, i.e. at capacity.

A excerpt from his Sept. 9 speech updating Britons on all the latest mandated restrictions reads:
“Theatres and sports venues could test all audience members on the day and let in those with a negative result, all those who are not infectious,” Johnson said.
He added, “Now that is an ambitious agenda, but we are going to pilot this approach in Salford from next month, with audiences in indoor and outdoor venues. And then we hope to go nationwide.”
Challenges remain, the prime minister continued, explaining, the technology had to work, materials to manufacture a high number of tests had to be sourced, and “numerous logistical challenges” met.
In the meantime, the government has reduced the amount of people allowed to gather together from 30 back to six.
The testing approach chimes with what one of the UK’s iconic promoters, Melvin Benn of Festival Republic, has been saying for months – and reiterated in a Sept. 8 parliamentary hearing on re-opening venues at capacity.
“You must test,” he said. In June, Benn published the so-called “Full Capacity Plan,” which was based on testing people, before they arrive at events, thereby creating an environment, where everybody in the space has been tested negatively.
Just like venues, festivals, too, can’t operate viably with distancing mandates in effect.
The chair at the Sept. 8 hearing, Julian Knight MP, wanted to know how practical it was to test 200,000 people, to which Benn responded that self tests, which seemed to be around the corner, could be the way – with an app giving staff and visitors the all-clear sign at the gate.
Benn was also asked a question about how to prevent a public health disaster in an environment, where people were prone to use drugs. 
Benn has been one of the earliest promoters in the UK to adopt measures to mitigate the effects of drugs at large-scale public events. Ironically, it was city council that placed hurdles in his way.
At the Sept. 8 parliamentary hearing, he reiterated that he was confident that a safe environment for people seeking personal abandonment could be created.
What he saw as more of a difficulty, was getting the UK government’s 
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Department of Health to engage with the live sector on the same page.
As the BBC recently reported, increased testing is one reason for an increased number in positive cases. Cases, that don’t necessarily develop an illness, which needs to be factored in and pointed out in the news coverage.