Was the BAFTA Weekend Behind Spike in Industry COVID Cases? – The Hollywood Reporter

As Oscar week kicks off, alongside the seemingly now two-horse best-picture race between The Power of the Dog and CODAone of the biggest talking points is how an apparent COVID-19 outbreak during the BAFTA weekend may impact proceedings.

At the Producers Guild of America nominees breakfast Saturday, much of the buzz was dedicated to a reported spike in London.

One source tells THR that the BAFTA weekend cluster has spooked some talent and filmmakers, who don’t want to take any risk of testing positive before the Academy Awards on March 27. “People are going to show an abundance of caution,” says the insider with regard to pre-Oscar festivities, although that may just apply to those who were at the BAFTAs.

As another source — who tested positive for COVID just days after attending the BAFTA ceremony and various surrounding events — says: “It seems the weekend may have been a super-spreader event.”

The British Academy has said it won’t comment, but the news comes as the UK experiences a surge in COVID cases, with an estimated 3.28 million people — 1 in 21 in the country — having tested positive for the coronavirus in the week to March 12, the day before the BAFTA ceremony.

One of those who tested positive after attending the BAFTA ceremony was Belfast director-producer Kenneth Branagh, who was among the 10 speakers on the PGA’s annual breakfast panel. No explanation was given as to why Branagh participated virtually — he certainly looked fine — but later that evening, THR confirmed that the filmmaker had tested positive in recent days.

Branagh wasn’t the only one on the BAFTA Belfast team who contracted the virus. Co-star Ciarán Hinds also tested positive, as did a handful or more of other people associated with the film. For the moment, Branagh — who THR understands only attended the BAFTA ceremony in London — is isolating in New York, where he landed on the Tuesday following the BAFTAs and was told to take a PCR test after several other teammates had tested positive. (He, like others flying to New York, had initially tested negative when taking an antigen test needed to gain entry to the US).

Others include Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who had to accept their New York Film Critics Circle best animated film award for The Mitchells vs. the Machines from a hotel room Wednesday after testing positive. Both were in London just days earlier for the BAFTAs, where the film was nominated. THR has heard that a number of The Mitchells vs. The Machines team caught COVID-19 and has reached out to Netflix.

THR has also learned that a number of the National Geographic team who traveled to London for their nominated doc The Rescueand later tested positive.

Insiders at Hollywood studios, smaller indie companies with films nominated at the BAFTAs and various publicity teams all say they know people — talent, execs, PRs and journalists — who tested positive after attending the ceremony and accompanying parties. “Literally everyone I’m speaking to at the moment says they have it,” says one.

as many THR has spoken to have pointed out, there were a number of hot-ticket events that could have attributed to this spike, not to mention the travel involved. Alongside the BAFTA ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall on March 13, there was a BAFTA nominees party March 12, plus an AMPAS nominees party earlier that day (one person reportedly caught COVID having only attended the AMPAS event), and later that night a Chanel dinner. After the ceremony, an array of post-BAFTA parties were available to those who could get an invite, including the official BAFTA sit-down dinner and party at Grosvenor House, plus late night bashes laid on by Amazon, MGM, Warner Bros and Netflix . “One person I know who got it had been to seven different parties,” said one publicist, who has also contracted COVID-19 (although not believed to be linked to the BAFTA weekend).

It should be noted that every single BAFTA weekend event THR knows of required proof of a negative antigen test (that could be self-administered) for entry, with guests at the BAFTA ceremony literally being asked to show their tests as they got out of their cars. There was no mask requirement anywhere, however, although many of those working at Royal Albert Hall and on the red carpet wore masks.

It should also be pointed out that these rules went above and beyond current government guidance, with UK authorities having essentially scrapped all COVID restrictions last month (a hugely controversial decision many are blaming on the current nationwide spike).

However, recent awards show in the US, including the PGA Awards, have required both proof of vaccination and a PCR test.

The Oscars are going even further and requiring two PCR tests for press and attendees. Presenters and performers won’t have to be vaccinated, but will have to go through rigorous testing. Press will have to wear masks on the red carpet, as will attendees inside who are not sitting in the orchestra. Rows of seats are also being removed to provide social distancing.

While the BAFTA weekend outbreak may have led to a few absentees at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and PGA Awards, the two-week gap before the Oscars may actually have some advantages.

As one insider suggests: “My guess is that nobody gets [COVID-19] at the Oscars, as they’ve all have really strong antibodies by then.”

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