Theatre News

Culture Secretary: New rapid Covid test 'has potential to help us get fuller audiences in theatres'

The Culture Secretary was excited about further investment in new testing

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
© UK Parliament / Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said last night that new improvements in testing can help get 'fuller audiences in theatres and fans in stadiums back sooner'.

Following the UK government's £500 million investment in quick Covid testing kits to provide rapid tracking of the virus, Dowden was optimistic that the new funding was a "very positive" step towards allowing events featuring a greater capacity.

According to GOV.UK, the new tests, which are being trialed in Southampton and Hampshire, can provide results within as little as 20 minutes using a testee's saliva. A further trial will also be taking place in Salford.

The hope is that testing capacity will be boosted ahead of the winter season, which, according to medical experts, may see another rise in cases if not handled correctly.

The government said yesterday: "By using this cutting-edge technology to widely roll out rapid tests, chains of transmission will be broken almost immediately by delivering on-the-spot results. Successful trials will then be expanded and rolled out more widely."

Yesterday the leader of the opposition Keir Starmer called for an extension to the furlough scheme for sectors in desperate need – for example the theatre industry. The Chancellor has ruled out such a move, and while the furlough scheme will finish at the end of October, government support loans for large organisations will not be distributed until December – leaving organisations and artists in an increasingly perilous position.

Yesterday, the DCMS revealed plans to meet next week to discuss policies including the introduction of "health passports" for those with negative Covid results, to help allow events to return without social distancing.

A new musical, Sleepless, is already using daily Covid testing to keep cast members safe and able to perform without social distancing.