Confirmed: English theatres able to reopen at capacity on 19 July
Plans have been given the green light
The Health Secretary Sajid Javid has updated the House of Commons and said that England will move to step four in the roadmap to reopening on 19 July.
Originally scheduled for 21 June before being pushed back by 19 July to allow more time to vaccinate the United Kingdom population, given that the vaccine has "severely weakened" the link between infection and hospitalisation and death.
Now, Javid has confirmed that the move will go ahead next Monday, meaning that theatres will be able to open at capacity, rather than adhering to social distancing guidelines and capacity restrictions. Javid said that the move will "take us one step closer to the life we want to live."
"It is recommended that people wear face masks in crowded indoor settings", Javid also stated, which will likely echo industry-wide messaging from later this week. "We want this to be a measured and one-way journey", he added.
Though not mandated, the government has said that businesses and large event organisers will be encouraged to use what have been dubbed "COVID passports". This may take the form of proof of double-vaccination, negative test or recovery from coronavirus, and would be used in "high-risk" settings in order to limit the spread of infections in their venues. We expect more detail on this in the coming days.
The Track and Trace app will still be used, with those alerted to potential exposure forced to self-isolate for ten days. This has caused logistical issues for theatres across the county.
Further guidance is expected over the coming few days.
Jon Morgan of the Theatres Trust said today: "Today's confirmation that Step 4 of the reopening roadmap will go ahead on 19 July is welcome news for theatres in England, who will no longer face capacity caps and social distancing requirements. This will enable theatres to welcome back full audiences, producing shows that are financially viable and to provide more work for the sector's precious freelance workforce.
"We know that theatres will do everything in their power to continue to ensure they provide a safe environment for their audiences.
"While it is good news for England, theatres in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still subject to tighter restrictions. A consistent approach is important both for the sake of struggling theatres in those nations and the impact on the viability of UK-wide tours, which are a vital part of the theatre landscape."