West End shows use antigen rapid testing to aid return to stage

West End shows are using measures including antigen rapid testing to aid their return to the stage, according to a health and safety expert.

Theatres and concert halls will be allowed to reopen from Monday although capacity limits will remain for large events until June 21 when social distancing is due to end, according to the Government road map.

RB Health and Safety Solutions Ltd has provided coronavirus safety services to shows across the capital during the pandemic, including Six The Musical, Magic Mike and Amelie.

Richard Beale, a chartered safety practitioner for the company, described how Abbott’s Panbio Covid-19 antigen rapid test is being used in theatres to check cast and crew upon arrival, before they wait 15 minutes for their results in a socially distanced area.

Most of the venues in which the company is operating are testing staff around three times a week, he said.

As well as rapid antigen testing, RB Health and Safety Solutions provide antibody screening, Covid-19 risk assessment and virus screening in offices, colleges and universities.

Mr Beale said: “It’s no understatement to say that the pandemic has impacted everyone employed by the theatre industry. But shows are now thankfully reopening and so many producers are taking additional steps to minimise the risks to theatre staff and performers, without compromising the theatre experience.

“Each venue and production company has their own unique challenges and needs, but we work with most to test staff and crew under the supervision of a healthcare professional using Abbott’s Panbio Covid-19 antigen rapid test on site at their venue.

“After being tested they move to a socially distanced room – often the auditorium and wait 15 minutes for their results. Those with a negative result then form part of the production’s bio bubble.

“We’re testing most venue staff and performers around three times a week because people can be most infectious after 48 hours of coming into contact with the virus.

“Having a healthcare professional present to supervise means the tests are done properly and Panbio is the only rapid test that has been approved for use on asymptomatic and symptomatic people of any age.

“Testing is just one control measure among many being used to make sure shows can go ahead this year, but it’s crucial in helping to reduce the risk of coming into contact with anyone with Covid-19, which could stop a show. It’s important for us to all do our bit to keep our theatres open.”