Nearly one year after theatres were forced to close by the onset of the Covid pandemic, prime minister Boris Johnson has delivered the first indication that auditoria could reopen.
Speaking in a daily briefing, Johnson said so-called ‘lateral flow testing’ to complement the mass vaccination programme offered the opportunity for staging indoor events with full audiences. He described nightclub and theatre operations as “the toughest nuts to crack” when it came to reviving economic activity and businesses.
The prime minister continued: “What we are thinking of at the moment is more of a route that relies on mass vaccination, and we intend to vaccinate all adults in the country by the autumn, plus lateral flow testing, rapid testing for those bits that are the toughest nuts to crack as it were – such as nightclubs and theatres.”
The principle of applying rapid turnaround lateral flow tests was endorsed in autumn last year but the reintroduction of stricter lockdown rules at the end of last year delayed any hope of theatres reopening.
Since then the success of the vaccination programme – currently the fastest of any large industrial country and outstripped only by Israel and the UAE – together with growing use of quick testing, has made the idea more feasible.
The next major announcement regarding lockdown will occur on 22 February, when the Government will address the schedule for reopening business activity. However, it remains unclear whether there will be any explicit reference to theatres and other mass attendance venues.