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Nimax Theatres to launch West End Covid testing 'centre' when reopening is allowed

Shows will be able to get teams tested regularly under the new plans

Garrick Theatre, one of Nimax's venues
© Alex Wood

A significant amount of uncertainty remains over when exactly venues will be able to re-open for live performances (though recent reports are now suggesting the tier system may be re-introduced from early March) but we are starting to know what exactly to expect when shows are able to get up and running, even with socially distanced audiences.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, owner of a plethora of West End venues has already said he'd be more than happy to use his spaces as vaccination centres if necessary (and a number of UK locations are already being used as such, including G Live in Guildford and Eden Court in Inverness).

But another key part of the reopening strategy is testing. As per an interview with The Stage, producer Nica Burns has now revealed that she plans to set up a dedicated Covid testing centre under her largest venue, the Palace Theatre (currently home to mega-production Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).

Burns has been testing teams for productions housed at her venues since the beginning of December – with either two or three tests conducted per week for companies on the likes of The Play That Goes Wrong and Everybody's Talking About Jamie.

She now intends to offer similar services to other shows, considering it an "easy step" to roll out the system to other productions at Nimax's six venues (the Palace, the Garrick, the Duchess, the Vaudeville, the Lyric and the Apollo), with "a really effective" cost per individual test.

Venues across the UK are currently closed while case numbers remain high, though the vaccination scheme looks set to have provided an initial jab to around 13 million people by mid-February, if current rates are maintained. This may mean some easing of restrictions (likely a return to the four-tier system first unveiled in December) from mid-March. Theatres and venues are able to operate with socially distanced attendees in "tier one" and "tier two" areas.

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