Live music sector raises concerns over UK’s proposal to scrap free lateral flow testing

This past weekend UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he intends to scrap free lateral flow Covid-19 testing at concerts and live music events. In a report from The Sunday Times, it was revealed that Johnson plans to do away with free testing everywhere with the exception of high risk areas such as hospitals, education facilities and old age facilities. Up until this point, free lateral flow tests have cost the UK nearly more than £6billion in public funds. 

Professionals in the music industry and live events sector immediately expressed concern over the move. Many believe that lateral flow tests are not only essential to keep artists and audiences safe, but should remain free and a public health right. Speaking to NME, CEO of music gigging body LIVE Greg Parmley, said the following: “Easy access to free lateral flow tests are a vital tool in ensuring people can attend live music venues safely and allow people to comply with COVID certification with proof of a negative test.” 

Similarly, Paul Reed from the Association Of Independent Festivals stressed the importance of Covid-19 testing for the functioning of the music festival sector. “The festival sector largely embraced voluntary COVID certification in 2021, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test result from attendees and staff,” he said. “If certification were to remain in place this summer, whether mandatory or as recommended practice, we would urge the Government to maintain this free access. Doing so would support festival organisers in their extensive efforts to mitigate against the virus and avoid increasing costs for audiences playing their part in attending events responsibly.”

Meanwhile, CEO of the Music Managers Forum Annabella Coldrick had independent artists (for whom gigging is an essential source of income and means to grow a following) and their fan bases in mind. “Scrapping free lateral flow tests at this stage of the pandemic would add significant costs and hit grassroots shows taking place in small venues particularly hard, as well as penalising the more vulnerable demographics of music fans.”

Yesterday however, Johnson announced that lateral flow tests would be kept free “for as long as is necessary,” though how long this refers to is for the government to decide. While tests will remain free for the near future, this could change at any moment. 

Read the full report from NME here.