After seeing the planned 50th anniversary Glastonbury Festival pushed to next year by the coronavirus pandemic, organizers are exploring every avenue for holding the 2021 edition, including massive testing for the virus. The annual event in England is scheduled for June, but uncertainty regarding how the pandemic will impact large scale events is likely to weigh heavily on planning, both for organizers and potential attendees. Testing people before they arrive could be one road to holding the event at scale, and safely.
“The testing is going so well now, there could be massive testing arrangements,” Michael Eavis said at an event last week. “Do we want to test 200,000 people, three times – when they leave their home; when they’re halfway here; and when they get to the gate – so that we’re clear of Covid?”
This year’s event was scheduled to feature headliners including Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney and Taylor Swift before being called off amid the pandemic. A virtual festival was held instead, broadcasting classic performances from the long-running festival fixture. After its cancellation, organizers said that the overwhelming majority of ticket-holders opted to hang on to their 2020 tickets to use for the 2021 festival, informing plans to keep it in its usual early summer slot rather than moving back to fall, where Coachella and other large festivals are rumored to be heading to make sure they don’t need to postpone after tickets are sold once again.
Glastonbury organizers are not the only group considering a rollout of massive testing to run an event safely. Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas has planned an on-site COVID testing lab, which would churn out rapid results to allow for a confident return to live events being held safely.
“Imagine the following: Lionel Richie is playing at the Encore Theater at 7pm,” Wynn CEO Matt Maddox says of the planned facility and its use. “Between 12pm and 4pm that day, you and your friends each provide a saliva sample at our on-property testing centers. The barcodes are scanned and you download the free UMC app and go about your day. All the information is hosted by UMC and the data is private. When the test results come back at 6pm, a negative test triggers a green light on the app and you can attend the show. And because the same process will apply, you can also head into a securely populated convention the following morning.”
With coronavirus infections on the rise in many countries – including the UK and U.S. – innovative ideas are likely to be the key to a safe return to live events without major constraints on attendance. It appears that Glastonbury is looking to stay ahead of the curve in its efforts to hold a safe and full-scale event next summer.