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Prime Minister: English theatres able to reopen in May if tests are met

Social distancing will be required to mitigate risks

Two West End venues opening up in the near future
© WhatsOnStage

Theatres and cinemas look set to resume performances with social distancing later this year.

The Prime Minister revealed in his speech to the House of Commons that performances will be, at the earliest, able to begin from 17 May.

Though the government roadmap did not provide concrete absolutes, the Prime Minister's speech in the House of Commons suggested that socially distanced performances can begin in a few months time, as long as the virus' spread continues to wane and vaccines prove effective. Described as "tentative", reopening may coincide with mass testing, as previously suggested.

Exciting data from Scotland released this morning reveals that vaccines can cut hospitalisations by over 80 per cent for elderly age groups, which is a positive sign as the jab roll-out continues.

More information is expected in the 60-page roadmap which will be released later today. The "rule-of-six", unveiled by the Prime Minister last autumn, will likely return as well. The government has also stressed that dates for each stage will only be "earliest" dates and could be pushed back.

Venues may also be able to reopen without social distancing from June

Johnson stressed: "There is no credible route to a zero-Covid Britain, or a zero-Covid world" – and that the roadmap therefore has to be "cautious" but also "irreversible".

What remains galling is that non-essential retail, often taking place in conditions where effective social distancing is difficult to moderate, will return before live performances, where socially distanced audiences can be sat at adequate distances.

The Prime Minister has also unveiled a four-step test that will govern each decision for reopening the economy (including the opening of venues), saying "The sequence will be informed by the evidence...our decision will be led by data, not dates." This includes:

a) The success of the vaccine scheme
b) Sufficient evidence to show vaccine effectiveness
c) Infection rates being such that they do not risk a surge in hospitals
d) The presence of any concerning variants that change risks "fundamentally"

Schools are set to open on 8 March, with two households able to mix outdoors by the end of March. The Prime Minister has also said that there will be no more geography-based tier systems, though local interventions may take place if necessary.

There will be five-week intervals between each new reopening step to assess the impact of relaxed measures, before new steps are taken.

We run through the government's 68-page document here


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