Prime Minister: 'Entertainment venues will close' from Thursday
In the face of a rising number of cases, theatres across England are expected to close
Entertainment venues across England will be forced to close under new national guidance from the UK government from later this week, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
As per GOV.UK Covid guidance, entertainment venues include "museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft play centres and areas."
As part of new rules, all non-essential businesses have been asked to close from Thursday 5 November for an initial period of four weeks until 2 December.
Southwark Playhouse, a London theatre, has said it intends to carry on staging its revival of The Last Five Years until Wednesday, and will update ticket holders on plans for future performances after this.
Johnson has said that, from that December date, the hope is that areas will return to a "tiered" system – which means, at worst, venues are able to open with social distancing if local authorities permit it. Any areas going into "tier two" spaces will be able to open with social distancing. Of course, the more stringent lockdown may well be delayed past 2 December.
Measures will have to be voted through the House of Commons early next week, but it is expected that this will occur.
The furlough scheme has been extended throughout November, though the exact nature of this is to be confirmed. Infuriatingly for many workers, this has been announced on the final day of the existing furlough scheme that the Chancellor repeatedly said he would not extend. As such, many who have already lost their jobs will not benefit from this extension. Further support for freelance workers has not been mentioned.
While the majority are currently closed, a formerly increasing number of theatres have been able to open with social distancing measures in place to mitigate risks and prevent the spread of infection.
In his national address, Johnson said: "No responsible Prime Minister can ignore the message of the figures...We know the cost of these restrictions. The impact on jobs and livelihoods."
"We will continue to provide a pragmatic approach in the month ahead...but we've got to be humbled in the face of nature...the virus is spreading faster than the worst-case scenario."
Johnson repeated his mantra: "Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives."
The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has confirmed that film and TV production, as well as elite sport, will be able to continue behind closed doors.
It is unknown if venues will be able to open in time for Christmas – it is expected that the new, more extreme measures will last at least a month and may only be retracted once the rate of infection declines. According to BBC reports, any repeal of measures from December will be done on a local basis rather than as a blanket, nationwide alteration to rules.
Schools and universities will be permitted to remain open under the new rules. Workplaces will be able to stay open – which may leave the door open for venues, without audiences, to present live-streamed shows to virtual audiences if casts can treat a building as a workplace, as has been done earlier on in the pandemic.
Theatres have not been forced to close under the first, second or third tiers of former government guidance, and it remains unconfirmed when or how theatres may adapt or cancel scheduled runs for November 2020.
For current ticket holders, as per March 2020, the best course of action is to wait for further information from your theatre as to whether or not your performance will go ahead. They will no doubt be inundated by queries – so patience will be important,