UK festivals are at risk of having to cancel due to a so-called “pingdemic” according to the Association of Independent Festivals [AIF], with many in the industry calling on Government for additional support. 

Paul Reed, chief executive of AIF, believes the NHS COVID-19 smartphone app, which asks people to self-isolate when they have been in proximity with another registered user who went on to test positive for coronavirus, could cause major staff shortages and other resourcing issues as workers in the sector are ‘pinged’ and asked to quarantine for ten days. 

“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,” Reed told The Guardian.“I’ve heard of site managers getting pinged, and obviously that’s work that you can’t switch to doing remotely.”

From 16th August rules in the UK change, meaning those who receive a proximity notification from the app will not have to self-isolate providing they have had two doses of an approved coronavirus vaccination. Crucially, though, Reed believes the date comes too late to safeguard many remaining events that have survived until this point, with more than half of all festivals originally planned for 2021 already cancelled. These include the recent announcement that Glastonbury’s proposed two-day event was being pulled. There are also concerns due to the young age of many workers meaning some may not have received full inoculation by that date. 

The AIF statement has been made following the first full weekend of events in England, the first country in the UK to green-light dancing and mass gatherings. Over the last few days, major dates including Tramlines in Sheffield and Latitude in Suffolk have all taken place, although the former did report staffing issues which were only overcome through contingency planning including beginning the site build days earlier than usual. 

“We understand the challenges live events have in securing indemnity cover and are exploring what further support may be required,” a spokesperson from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport told The Guardian. 

Although hospitality and nightlife have now fully reopened in England, opinion remains divided on whether crowds should be allowed in the face of high infection rates across the nation.