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Report: UK study shows large events without masks or social distancing just as safe as shopping, eating out

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A widespread study being organized by the U.K. government has so far reportedly found that hosting large gatherings without masks or social distancing is no riskier to the public than opening restaurants or shopping centers.

"Holding mass events without masks and social distancing can be as safe as going to a restaurant or shopping centre, government trials suggest," The Times reported on Tuesday.

"Preliminary data from the [Events Research Programme] is understood to have found that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors the risk of virus transmission can be significantly reduced, reducing fears that sports matches and concerts could cause big outbreaks," the report said.

Since early last month, the U.K. government has been running large-scale testing through an initiative called the Events Research Programme, which aimed to "examine the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from attendance at events and explore ways to enable people to attend a range of events safely."

As a part of the initiative, government researchers selected several "pilot events" with a range of criteria, including differing audience capacities and outdoor and indoor venues, to test a number of mitigating factors in order to determine how to reopen large venues safely.

Such events included the Football Association Challenge Cup Semi-Final and Final at Wembley Stadium, the BRIT Awards in London, and World Snooker Championship at Sheffield Crucible Theatre.

Though the research program still has a few weeks to complete its round of trials, the group is reportedly set to forward the early positive results to government ministers in the coming days.

"We are still waiting for the final bits of data but the results so far have been very encouraging," a source reportedly told The Times. "It will help make the case that these large events are not inherently more risky than other parts of the hospitality sector.

"It shows that there are things that you can do to make these settings as safe as other daily activities," the source said. "It is true that they are not going to be 100% safe, but you can lower the risk to a reasonable level."

During the run of testing, event attendees followed established guidelines, such as presenting proof of a recent negative test or vaccination, but were not required to wear a facial covering or remain at least three feet apart.

Attendees were also reportedly "monitored by CCTV and wore devices that showed how many others they came into contact with, whether they shook hands or hugged, and how far apart they stood."

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