Would you have a Covid test if it meant you could go to the theatre? Our readers' thoughts

Our readers have shared some thoughts

An audience on a stage, looking at an empty auditorium
An audience on a stage, looking at an empty auditorium
© Dan Wooller

Last night, Boris Johnson suggested live on national television that rapid testing, alongside the mass vaccination effort, will be key to getting at-capacity events up and running – describing theatre and clubs as "the toughest nuts to crack".

So we posed the question to our readers – if going to the theatre meant being tested, would you get one? While naturally it will be down to qualified professionals to decide how implementation would and could happen, gauging audience sentiment is a useful tool – after all, these are the people that actually have to show up and spectate!

First of all it's worth saying that, as readers of the largest theatre website in the UK, naturally our audience are a bit biased – theatre lovers would certainly go above and beyond to see shows and the overwhelming majority of respondents said that they'd be happy to take a test. As one user put it – "I'd watch people read from the phone book just now!".

But that doesn't mean some interesting points weren't made. Many highlighted how they are already tested regularly for work purposes, so it would make going to the theatre relatively straightforward. As one commenter says: "we already do them twice a week at school and it's absolutely fine."

Others mentioned that they would be happy for this to take place only if "a refund or alternate date was offered for a positive test". This raised some further points – if one member of a party tested positive, would the entire party have to skip the show?

Many WOS readers raised concerns about the timing of said tests: would they be before punters head to a venue (therefore potentially not factoring in travel) or would they have to take place at the theatre – in which case, where would they be? Would queues be longer as a result? All very justified questions.

What form the rapid tests would take was debated by some readers – a variety of different testing schemes are being developed (some involving swabs, others use potentially less intrusive methods). Leaving aside questions of test effectiveness, Oxford University is also said to be rolling out a five-minute testing kit later this year.

Another question was – who pays for these tests? Would it be producers or audience members, or would it be the government? How much would they cost? If audiences pay, this could only increase access issues in the arts.

Of course, some uncertainty remains over whether or not the tests would be on top of vaccines or in lieu of vaccines – eg. would vaccinated individuals still have to take a test?

A test, plus a vaccine, plus a temperature check, plus face masks, on top of fogging, improved air conditioning and more, all sounds like a rather reassuring accumulation of safety measures.

Essentially there are lots of unknowns, but a suggestion that there are thoughts being had and plans afoot is certainly a promising sign.

In another interesting turn, according to reports, one company providing "Covid passport" technology has been approached by both a UK theatre and a cinema chain to see if such a scheme could work. A Serco study today also found that 60 per cent would be happy for vaccine passports for cultural events, with only one in five being against them.

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