Next Monday prime minister Boris Johnson will announce his decision on whether legal restrictions – including those related to social distancing and wearing of face masks – will be lifted in England on 19 July when Step 4 of the Government roadmap is due to be reached.
Johnson explained in his statement: “If we don’t go ahead now when we’ve clearly done so much with the vaccination programme to break the link… when would we go ahead?
“We run the risk of either opening up at a very difficult time when the virus has an edge, has an advantage, in the cold months, or again putting everything off to next year.”
This means that live venues including theatres will be able to return to full attendance levels (the one metre-plus social distancing rule would come to an end) and that audience members wouldn’t be legally required to wear face masks.
Theatre producers will be relieved to hear that venues will no longer be at the mercy of the Test and Trace system, but the lack of any sign of a government insurance scheme for the industry will still be a major concern [culture secretary Oliver Dowden had suggested such a plan would be announced before the 19 July deadline].
Only today London productions of Hairspray at the London Coliseum and Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner at the Royal Court Theatre have had to cancel several performances due to production team members receiving positive Covid results.
SOLT and UK Theatre chief executive Julian Bird said:
“We welcome today’s confirmation that 19 July will see the lifting of remaining lockdown restrictions – meaning that theatres can open to full audiences for the first time in 16 months. This is a lifeline for our industry, essential for the survival of theatres across the country.
“We will be working closely with Government in the coming days on revising the performing arts guidelines, ensuring that our audiences and staff can feel safe and confident in returning.”
Johnson explained in his five-point plan that the Government would offer guidance on where it would be advisable for individuals to still wear face coverings, but ultimately people would be left to make their own informed decision on the issue.
However, with case numbers still likely to rise significantly due to the Delta variant during the week to come, England’s chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty said that he would continue to wear a face covering in a number of situations, including “indoors with close proximity with other people”.
Venues may put rules in place in relation to mask-wearing and Covid certification, added Johnson, but the law would not require them to do so.