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Prime Minister confirms national lockdown – English theatres expected to close for at least next month

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a national address this evening

A near-empty auditorium

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a new English lockdown, in line with Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish measures, will begin from Wednesday morning.

As part of the restrictions, live performances will naturally not be able to take place and English citizens are advised to stay at home where possible, unless unable to work from home.

Johnson did not put a specific time limit on the current measures but stated: "We should remain cautious about the time ahead. If our understanding of the virus remains the same...I hope we can steadily move out of lockdown after the February half term and move people down through the tiers."

As such, it is likely that venues will not be able to re-open in England before that date. February half term runs from 15 to 19 February 2021.

According to reports citing government sources, any reviews of restrictions will happen in the week commencing 15 February, and any changes will commence from the week starting 22 February, when half-term ends in England.

By this half term, Johnson has also said that all those over 70 and those with serious underlying health conditions (as well as frontline workers and in care homes) should have received the first dose of their vaccine. Schools will have to close from tomorrow, the Prime Minister has revealed.

The big difference, the Prime Minister has stated, compared with the last lockdown is the existence of the vaccine – which will "remove the vulnerable from the path of the virus". As such, new steps are being taken to dampen the impact of the virus and, eventually, bring about some sort of conclusion.

Many venues have benefitted from the government's £1.57bn cultural support fund – though a notable portion of the freelance community has still not received substantial sector-specific support despite a major loss of work.

As per existing tier four rules and the previous lockdown, rehearsals, recorded pieces and live-stream performances (much in the same way as film sets) should be able to continue, as long as individuals and companies take important risk mitigation measures to prevent the spread of infection.

Theatres are permitted to open under "tier two" restrictions (albeit with social distancing). Few parts of the country are currently under "tier two".

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