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Boris Johnson: We will delay the next step in reopening until 19 July

The news was revealed today

Playhouse Theatre
© WhatsOnStage

As confirmed earlier today, Johnson has stated that there will be a delay to the government's step four in the roadmap to reopening.

The fourth and final step in the current roadmap would have eased distancing restrictions and allowed audiences to sit in auditoria at capacity.

Johnson has stated that the public should wait: "A few more crucial weeks to get jabs in the arms of those that need them...I am confident that we do not need more than this. It is undeniably clear that the vaccine roll-out is working, but now is the time to ease off the accelerator."

He added: "We will hold off opening step four until 19 July. We will continue to pilot events including some theatrical performances...If after two weeks the risk has diminished, we may move to step four sooner."

The vaccine roll-out will push on, Johnson has said: "We will accelerate second jabs for those over 40", and bring forward the target to get all adults jabbed by mid-July." The plan is to give millions more individuals a vaccination during this period to make sure that there are greater defences against risks.

"We cannot simply eliminate Covid, we must learn to live with it. Every day that goes by, the more we are protected against this disease – especially once adults have been given two vaccine doses."

The Prime Minister, apparently misreading his own statements, said that the delay would be to 29 July in today's press statement: this is, reportedly, his error.

Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire reacted to today's news, saying: "Today's announcement is a catastrophe for the theatre, music and live- entertainment sector. The only guaranteed outcome is the negative impact on jobs, local economies and the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.

"This delay is yet another bungle from a government that wouldn't be given a single star in a review of its performance. The confusion and muddled-messages are reminiscent of a West End farce.   

"The vast majority of theatres cannot operate whilst social-distancing remains; but other measures can be put in place to reduce risk. The government knows this. Its own data shows that a visit to a live event (at full capacity) is safer than a trip to a pub, restaurant or supermarket. Yet still, our world-leading sector is being prevented from opening, despite the untold millions that have been spent on preparations.

"Britain needs live-theatre and live-entertainment. It's thrilling, joyful and fun. It's an escape, a diversion and a release. It's one of the few remaining shared experiences we have. In fact, it's precisely the tonic the country needs, now, more than ever.

"Millions have booked tickets in anticipation of that experience – whether for our own Jersey Boys, Anything Goes or Death Drop – or for a festival, music gig or regional show.  But they, and others, need confidence that the shows will go on."

Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre chief Julian Bird said: "The proposed four-week delay to full reopening of live entertainment venues will have serious implications for many theatres and performing companies around the country.

"This delay not only impacts productions and theatres preparing to open in the next few weeks, but also shows currently running socially distanced, which had planned to increase their capacity - and producers making the difficult decision whether to start rehearsals for shows due to open in late July or August, with thousands of jobs hanging in the balance.

"Particularly at risk are large-scale commercial productions, which have received little or no Cultural Recovery Fund support and cannot survive under social distancing.

"We urge Government to consider greater support for affected theatre organisations, by offering a tailored insurance scheme, allocating the remainder of the Cultural Recovery Fund, and extending full furlough and the Business Rates holiday.

"Once theatres are given the go-ahead to fully return, we will continue to implement industry-wide ‘See It Safely' measures including enhanced cleaning, one-way systems, contactless ticketing and security, and the wearing of masks if required.

"The safety of theatre audiences and staff is our top priority, and we want everyone to be confident to return to full houses on the basis of the latest scientific data. We need Government to confirm as soon as possible that restrictions will be lifted by 19 July - a clear, irreversible reopening date will boost audience confidence at a time when it is vital theatre fans support the industry they love."


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