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‘Pingdemic‘ staff shortages threaten UK summer festival calendar

Festival Crowd
(Image credit: Guy Prives / Getty)

The UK's summer festival season is under threat from staff shortages as the effects of the so-called 'pingdemic' are felt across the country. With rising Covid-19 cases, the number of people contacted by the UK's track and trace app and being instructed to self-isolate has risen significantly, placing events at risk of last-minute cancellations.

Speaking in the Guardian, Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said that festivals were particularly at risk as staff members could not work remotely. If whole teams had to go into isolation, the events themselves may be cancelled. 

“We’ve already heard anecdotally accounts of marquee companies isolating at home because their entire team’s being pinged so they can’t actually get to the site,” he said.

From 16 August, those how have been doubly vaccinated will not have to self-isolate for a period of 10 days if pinged by the track and trace app, but Reed noted that this deadline would come too soon for many younger employees to have received both doses of the vaccine.

The UK's summer festival lineup has already seen over half of its events cancelled. Those that are scheduled have a number of Covid guidelines in place to manage the risk of reopening, with Reading and Leeds Festival requiring festival goers to provide either proof of full vaccination (both doses), a negative lateral flow test, or a proof of natural immunity resulting from a positive PCR test within 180 days preceding the festival.

Insurance remains a sticking point for many events, with industry leaders calling for government backed schemes to offer some support for the live music industry, which is worth $4.6 billion to the UK economy, and lost 85 per cent of its revenues in 2020.

Earlier in the month, Reed warned the government that insurance support was vital. ”Insurance remains the key obstacle to planning with confidence, he said. ”There is no rationale for not implementing such a scheme if the government’s roadmap is truly irreversible.” 

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE said that the commercial insurance industry had failed the UK live music sector. When the government announced the lifting of Covid restrictions from 19 July, he warned of staff shortages due to isolation protocols and called for the government to issue exemptions. ”Without this exception, shows will have to be cancelled unnecessarily at the last minute, costing millions of pounds and potentially thousands of jobs.”

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005 and is a regular contributor to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World.