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Prime Minister: English theatres set to open at full capacity from 19 July

The news was confirmed in a national broadcast

Liverpool Playhouse
© Liverpool BID Company

Boris Johnson has confirmed that "Step Four" on the roadmap to reopening will take place on 19 July.

In a statement delivered to the nation this afternoon, Johnson stated that the government will remove social distancing measures from 19 July, while also removing a mandate to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor spaces. Test and Trace will remain in operation, though venues do not need to collect attendance data for each visitor. You can examine what that means for theatres in this blog.

As part of the PM's speech, he said the government will lay out contexts in which maskwearing will be advised, though not compulsory.

These new policies are in line with "Step Four" in the government's roadmap to reopening, which was originally scheduled for 21 June but was pushed back following an increase in case numbers.

Some venues may, if they deem it necessary, encourage the wearing of masks or even introduce some form of Covid status certification, but reports suggest this will not be enforced by law.

The news should enable theatres to open at capacity – which should be welcome news for theatre producers now able to stage viable productions at full capacity. Shows including Anything Goes and Jersey Boys have all pushed their opening dates to beyond this 19 July date in order to be viable.

The final decision on Johnson's plans will be made on 12 July, with the government set to assess whether the foreseeable pressure on the NHS will be classed as too great. The government has also emphasised that the vaccine roll-out must continue at pace – only through greater immunity will individuals be safe in the long run.

SOLT's 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."