With winter drawing in, clubbing season is well underway. This is the first winter clubbing season in the UK since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the lockdown is - the virus is far from gone.
This winter has already seen a spike in COVID cases across Europe. Countries such as The Netherlands and Ireland have gone back into a partial lockdown, a move that has not been made by many Western European countries in many months now. Austria has entered a full lockdown. States across Germany are imposing restrictions on clubs, including a full three week shut down in Bavaria and 50% capacity limit in Berlin. There is currently speculation about whether other countries, including the UK, will be reintroducing COVID-19 measures, and Boris Johnson has said that we “cannot be complacent”. Testing before going out will stop nightclubs from being scapegoated for spreading the virus and help keep them open.
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The latest REACT-1 study suggests that COVID levels are at their highest in the UK since they were first recorded in May 2020. The last month has seen a particularly steep rise - with the prevalence increasing from 0.83% in September to 1.72% in October. More than 45,000 people tested positive for COVID on Thursday, November 25.
While experts are suggesting that the possibility of entering another lockdown in the UK is low, they all emphasise that this is on the precedent of controlling the spread of the virus.
According to Professor Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose research helped investigate the first lockdown, the prospect of a lockdown in the UK is not likely: “We might see slow increases as we did in October, for instance, but not anything as rapid as we saw last year.”
There’s one important step we can take in the UK in order to help stop the spread of the virus- and that is to keep testing regularly, especially when attending large scale events and venues such as nightclubs.
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Mixmag spoke to Dr Giuseppe Aragona, GP and online doctor for OnlinePrescriptionDoctor, about the importance of testing and isolating in stopping the spread of the virus. Dr Aragona believes that it is “very important” to test regularly and to remain “vigilant”. “The difference in new cases between events that have mandatory testing and those that do not is significant, with events without testing causing a spike in numbers of people contracting COVID-19”, he explains. This is due to the number of people who are carriers of the virus or are COVID positive, but are asymptomatic and are therefore unaware.
“Testing prior to any events is important, but events such as clubs, concerts and large parties is imperative as people are crammed much closer together and the likelihood of the virus spreading is increased hugely.”
“We are heading into winter and as we know this is a critical time for people to be vigilant, wear masks and test as much as they can to insure that everyone is safe and to keep chances of going into another lockdown slim. I would urge people to take the necessary precautions before they attend any event, if an event does not ask for mandatory testing to enter then I would not go.”
He confirmed that testing and isolating does help stop the spread of the virus, and used the lockdowns and restrictions as proof of this. “The virus easily multiplies and it can take just days to reach thousands more people, especially in cities or at events. The best way to avoid another lockdown is to remain wary and keep safe.” Dr Aragona says that on top of regular testing, he advises people to sanitize their hands and wear a mask in public spaces.
Many clubs and venues are already being vigilant with their COVID testing policy and refuse entry to people who cannot provide proof of a recent negative lateral flow or proof of recent recovery. Night Tales Loft in Hackney has a clear COVID testing policy, requiring people to have proof of a negative test taken no more than 24 hours before the event is due to start. On its social media accounts, the venue has useful links to attendees which provides information on COVID, testing and where to find tests. Night Tales Loft believe it’s their responsibility as a venue to provide information on COVID as well as just being a party provider as the pandemic is “not over yet!”.
Speaking to Mixmag, Night Tales Loft's Liam Cross explained that “testing before entry ultimately helps us to keep our doors open”.
“Research suggests you can still carry the virus even when you are double-vaccinated and we want to do everything we can to prevent transmission. It’s also important we do all that we can to protect our staff, who arguably have the greatest exposure to potential transmission. Hats off to all our door, floor and bar staff - they have been sensational.”
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Night Tales Loft has found that by everyone taking COVID tests before entry has made “everyone feel more safe” - as they ‘ve explained that customers feel more comfortable and staff feel less apprehensive. They also offer customers who test positive for COVID a full ticket refund. They hope this will be an incentive to people to stay home and stay safe if they have the virus. “Testing before going out each weekend is a new behaviour - we have to do all we can to normalise it.”
DJs have echoed this sentiment - Jyoty recently tweeted to encourage attendees of events to take precautions while going out. This keeps those performing and working at venues safe, as well as everyone else attending. Club environments are often blamed for high transmission rates and a rise in cases- by clubbers taking individual responsibility it can relieve pressure on the night-time industry and shine a good light on club culture.
Lateral flow testing kits are available for free from your local pharmacy or online. Current guidance states that those who have tested positive for the virus, or have been identified as close contacts of individuals who are positive, must isolate themselves for 10 days. If you have been identified as a close contact but are double-vaccinated, you are exempt from isolation- however getting a PCR test to confirm your COVID-19 status is recommended.
For full guidance on COVID-19, visit the NHS website here
Aneesa Ahmed is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow her on Twitter