The government has finally done what many people have been demanding for some time and put an end to all legally enforceable Covid-19 restrictions. On 1st April, an inauspicious date, they published their guide, ‘Living Safely with Respiratory Infections, Including Covid-19’.
Not withstanding this, Covid-19 remains a potentially fatal disease and although recent variants have been milder than the earliest forms, hospitalisations are still at a significant level, cases are rising and people are dying. The argument that ‘it’s just like living with flu’ doesn’t hold much water. Calculated in lost ‘life years’, Covid-19 is six times deadlier. Getting ready to ‘live with’ doesn’t mean pretending it has gone away.
In June 2020, the British Film Commission published its guidance document, ‘Working Safely During Covid-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’. This came immediately after the first tentative easing of restrictions including the ban on being out of the home without good reason. At the time, film and TV production had been seriously disrupted with big-budget projects put on indefinite hold and regular TV dramas taken off air.
The BFC guidance was updated in December 2021 and stated that film and high-end TV production could continue provided that it was conducted in accordance with the guide itself, the production’s own Covid-19 protocols and any risk assessments specific to individual productions. The BFC emphasised the need for everyone involved in film and TV production to observe sensible precautions and for all participants to take every practical measure to safeguard others.
The relaxation and subsequent abandonment of government-mandated rules does not relieve production companies of the legal responsibility to manage risk. Risk assessments that include evaluation of issues specific to Covid-19 are therefore essential.
The guide reiterates the importance of frequent cleaning, personal sanitisation and good ventilation, even when employees have been vaccinated, carry a natural immunity or have recently tested negative. Supervisory staff should continue to receive training in the enforcement of such measures, first aiders should be kept up to date with Covid-19 procedures and certain staff should be trained to carry out symptom checking.
While cast and crew may no longer be required to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, regular testing should continue. The frequency of tests may be reduced but the practice must be maintained.
Shutting down production is an extremely expensive business but there was no alternative. The cost of delays and in some cases cancellations necessitated by the pandemic have been enormous. Many films intended for cinema release ended up on streaming platforms while others that hung on saw millions of pounds lost in premature marketing.
When production did begin again, it’s estimated that safety procedures increased budgets by 15%. However, of the two options, implementing an effective on-set Covid-19 plan is far cheaper than losing days or weeks of production because of an outbreak.
Katalyst is a UKAS accredited provider of COVID-19 testing. Our service is designed for productions of all sizes and our rapid turnaround times will keep the reels and wheels turning.