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U.K. Relaxes COVID Production Protocols: Social Distancing Optional, Buffets Are Back

Cheyne Gateley/Variety Intelligence Platform

The British Film Commission (BFC) has issued new guidance on COVID production protocols and no doubt the U.K. screen industry will breathe a sigh of relief.

The overhauled guidance, which was drafted in consultation with the industry and is based on the U.K. government’s “Living with COVID-19” published strategy, has done away with the stipulations for COVID supervisors, social distancing, perspex screens and intensive cleaning as well as lifting the ban on craft service buffets.

However, the updated guidance still recommends a number of COVID-safe practices, including the voluntary implementation of a COVID testing program, provision of hygiene facilities such as hand-washing stations and sanitizer, a daily symptom check for the entire production and a symptom response plan. “Be aware that the whole production may be halted for group testing if a person who has wide contact with cast and crew tests positive for COVID-19,” the guidance still warns.

“As the world learns to live with COVID-19, the BFC’s Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production guidance remains an essential tool in keeping crew and cast safe and productions working,” said Adrian Wootton OBE, chief executive of the British Film Commission. “This guidance has been instrumental in enabling our sector to continue working throughout the pandemic. Its practices are established and observed, and in many cases voluntarily exceeded, by studios and productions, who all seek to keep the safety, health and mental wellbeing of cast, crew and community a key priority. We will continue to update this guidance and keep it under review in consultation with Government and our industry partners.”

Among the key changes:

COVID Supervisors

The guidance no longer instructs producers to “assign an appropriately trained COVID-19 H&S Supervisor to the production.”

Instead, it says productions “should consider hiring an appropriately trained COVID-19 Supervisor to the production as part of their wider H&S [health and safety] protocols, to cover any COVID-19-specific requirements across all departments.”

The previous guidance also said that productions were required to “assign clear lines of COVID-19 safer working enforcement responsibility” which included a COVID health and safety supervisor to undertake a risk assessment, monitor compliance and have the power to “stop unsafe working practices.” This has now been removed however the updated guidance states: “Projects should continue to follow their production’s own COVID-19 protocols and the production-specific risk assessment.”

Social Distancing

Previously, the guidance suggested keeping individuals apart as much as possible, for example with staggered call times, limited access to the set and extra time to prep, shoot and strike. It also suggested keeping “interaction between departments to a minimum wherever possible.”

All of that has now been removed. However, the new guidance still suggests that productions “should consider remote working practices and avoid in-person meetings wherever possible.”


The previous guidance had stringent rules around catering, including “no communal food preparation, storage areas or serving,” staggered meal and break times, the implementation of screens and, where possible, the operation of pre-order and/or one-way systems.

These have now been removed.

Unit Base/Facility Vehicles

The guidance no longer requires productions to allocate individual cast trailers/spaces and place perspex or clear plastic screens in craft and technical trailers.


The requirement to have all areas – including trailers, workstations and eating areas – professionally cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis has been removed.

The full guidance can be accessed here.

Variety's K.J. Yossman contributed to this post.

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