Concerts, sports events and festivals may not resume until late 2021 - here's why

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As it looks increasingly likely that the UK government will announce an extended lockdown, many of us are keen to know when we can go back to enjoying sports games, concerts and festivals.

But these types of large scale events are likely to be unsafe to attend until late 2021, says Zeke Emanuel, director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Mr Emanuel was part of an expert panel assembled by the New York Times on life after the Covid-19 pandemic in the USA. On the subject of resuming large events, Emanuel said, “You can’t just flip a switch and open the whole of society up. It’s just not going to work. It’s too much. The virus will definitely flare back to the worst levels.”

According to Mr Emanuel, large-scale events need to be the last thing to be reinstated, and the economy will need to be restarted in stages.

He said, “It does have to start with more physical distancing at a work site that allows people who are at lower risk to come back. Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner.

"Larger gatherings - conferences, concerts, sporting events  when people say they’re going to reschedule this conference or graduation event for October 2020, I have no idea how they think that’s a plausible possibility. I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we’re talking fall 2021 at the earliest.”

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Why such a long wait?

Mr Emanuel's prediction for when large gatherings will be allowed to begin again has to do with the length of time it will take to produce a vaccine. Vaccination is the only way that everyone will be able to safely meet in large crowds without a huge spike in Covid-19 cases.

According to The Guardian, the expert view is that a vaccine will take about 12 to 18 months to create, test and administer, which is why restrictions will be in place until then.

Larry Brilliant, the epidemiologist who led the effort to eradicate smallpox and consulted on the film Contagion, told The Economist, “I think we will have a vaccine that works in less than a couple of months.

“Then it will be the arduous process of making sure that it is effective enough and that it is not harmful. And then we have to produce it. Tony Fauci’s (America’s Director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) estimate of 12 to 18 months before we have a vaccine, in sufficient quantities in place, is one that I agree with.”

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But Mr Brilliant did have a warning about coronavirus, even after a vaccine has been created. He said, “I just want to mention, once we have that vaccine, and we’ve mass vaccinated as many people as we could, there will still be outbreaks.

"People are not adding on to the backend of that time period the fact that we will then be chasing outbreaks, ping-pong-ing back and forth between countries. We will need to have the equivalent of the polio-eradication program or the smallpox-eradication program, hopefully at the WHO. And that mop-up - I hate to use that word when we’re talking about human beings - but that follow-on effort will take an additional period of time before we are truly safe.”

With this in mind, it is important to realise that getting back to what was normal before the pandemic may take longer than anticipate.

For now, you can get still get your music fix, as many artists are streaming live online. The BBC has plans to show old Glastonbury highlights, and vintage sporting matches such as football and rugby are playing regularly on YouTube.