When can the show go on?

Audience of none: The live events industry in Malaysia has been badly hit as tougher restrictions in the movement control order do not allow for live performances, concerts and other gigs to take place.

SINGING along with your favourite band, laughing out loud at a comedy show and feeling the energy of a crowd at a concert....

It’s a thrill to be at such live events, and as they recover from the coronavirus, some countries – like the United States – are re-opening live entertainment like concerts again, albeit with protocols like physical distancing.

For us, we’ll still have to wait before we can experience these again, given the current Covid-19 situation and extended lockdown.

The pandemic has dealt blows to our live entertainment industry over the past 18 months, with restrictions imposed due to the surge in cases.

But as more people get vaccinated daily, there’s a ray of hope to revive the sector with time.

The Arts, Live, International Festivals and Events Association (Alife) is working on a proposed solution to be presented to the National Security Council (MKN), on the possibility of allowing live events to be safely attended by those who have been vaccinated.

“We hope to open as soon as we have reached some level of herd immunity this year, ” says Alife chairman R. Para.

However, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) is cautious about the idea.

“It’s up to the standard operating procedure (SOP) advised by the Health Ministry and National Security Council, ” the ministry tells Sunday Star when asked if those who are vaccinated can be permitted to attend such events in the near future.

“All arts and cultural activities are dependent on the SOP set by the government.

“With the current pandemic at hand, no such activities like live performances involving crowds are allowed until the government lifts the movement control order and advice in its SOP, ” Motac elaborates.

Some countries, like Britain and Spain, have carried out efforts like conducting trial events attended by large groups of people.

On May 26, it was reported that trial events in Liverpool, Britain, to test Covid-19 transmission

did not cause any detectable spread of the virus.

Over 13, 000 people attended two nightclub events, a music festival and a business conference in April and May, according to the reports.

In a similar experiment, researchers in Spain found “no sign” of higher levels of infection among people who took part in a large test concert in March.

Around 5, 000 music fans took part in the experiment after testing negative for Covid-19; they wore masks but did not physically distance themselves.

Six people tested positive within 14 days of attending the gig in Barcelona, but that incidence was lower than that seen in the general population.

Of the six people who tested positive, researchers concluded that four were infected elsewhere, not at the event itself, said reports.

In Malaysia, the Covid-19 outbreak, which started in January 2020, has had a huge impact on our tourism industry, notes Motac.

“This has affected businesses in related sectors such as accommodation, transportation, shopping, food and beverage, theme parks and business events or MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions).

“The ministry estimates that the loss in tourism expenditure will be RM125bil for 2020, ” says Motac.

For the live events industry, it is reported that this sector contributes around RM400mil in revenue yearly for Malaysia.

With the surge in cases since April and the implementation of MCO3.0, efforts to revive the tourism industry have been hampered.

“Due to that, all arts and cultural activities like live events will not be allowed until the government relaxes the MCO.

“At present, we don’t have a timeframe when it’s expected to last, subject to the worst-case scenario in the pandemic, ” the ministry says.

On the bright side, Malaysia’s vaccination rate is expected to speed up with 16 million Covid-19 vaccine doses expected to arrive in the next two months.

Malaysia is also ramping up the vaccination rate to 150, 000 doses and higher in a day.

This will help Malaysia achieve its target of vaccinating 80% of the population by year-end.

In the meantime, Motac has engaged with tourism industry players to obtain feedback on the best way for the government to assist them during this critical period and keep the industry alive.

Under the Tourism Recovery Plan, Motac is looking into strengthening cooperation with the private sector in reinventing tourism and arts and culture products to be more appealing and innovative while keeping Covid-19 infections low.

“It is a joint responsibility between the government and private sector to ensure the number of cases go down by adhering strictly to the SOP, including social distancing, wearing masks and sanitising hands.

“By keeping the numbers down, it will allow the government to consider allowing interstate and inter-district travel.

“In the meantime, we encourage all industry players to continue promoting Malaysia both at domestic and international levels, ” Motac urges.

Once Malaysia’s interstate and international borders open, the nation will be ready to accept travellers while adhering to the SOP prepared by the government.

“We have worked and will continue to work hard in finding the best solutions and approaches to strengthen and revitalise affected industries, ” Motac vows.

For now, the ministry is putting its efforts into enabling 1.3 million industry players in the tourism and culture sector to be vaccinated.

“Based on discussions with the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry, as the coordinating ministry of the vaccination programme, they have given positive signals

for this initiative to be implemented.

“For now, the mechanism is being finalised and the implementation will be done in phases, ” it says.

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