The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has updated the business meetings and events section in its Visitor Economy Guidance, 15 March.
The updated guidance says that if a venue is or contains a conference centre or similar meeting facility, it may be able to open for a limited number of legally permitted reasons.
Permitted venues, including exhibition and conference centres, can hire out function and event spaces for essential work, education and training purposes. This includes for exams for students from the same school, college or university, mandatory or work-critical training courses, such as training towards a formal qualification or hiring a venue to provide additional office space.
If venues have multiple, separate meeting facilities, these can be hired out simultaneously for separate meetings and events if the groups can be kept separate.
The guidance says that meetings and events are only permitted under certain circumstances. Where meetings and events are permitted, social distancing should be maintained, and the venue should demonstrate it has followed Covid-secure guidance.
Essential events must not contain social elements such as receptions, and hospitality areas remain subject to restrictions.
The Government has advised organisers to consider pre-attendance screening, and prevent people attending if they have symptoms of Covid-19, have had a recent positive test, or have recently had any contact with someone positive or symptomatic, or have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace.
Venues and organisers are told to space out chairs and tables to meet social distancing requirements, and discourage close face-to-face interaction between guests. Any auditorium or theatre-style seating at conferences and other large events should follow the principle for audience seating in the guidance for performing arts venues. This includes not using cloakrooms and discouraging people from raising their voices.
Social distancing should be maintained at 2m as far as possible, but this can be reduced to a minimum of 1m where 2m is unviable, the guidance says, and where other mitigations are in place (such as increasing ventilation). When the audience is seated in rows, social distancing should always be observed side-to-side, with space left between groups, households or support bubbles. Social distancing should also be applied nose-to-nose, such as maintaining 1m between seats in front and behind.