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Lyric Hammersmith (Photo credit: David Tett)

Prime Minister: Theatres to reopen in May subject to tests

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai First Published 22 February 2021, Last Updated 24 February 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today set out his four-step plan to release England from lockdown in the House of Commons. He confirmed that theatres can resume performances at the earliest from 17 May with social distancing and a limited capacity, dependant on tests.

He stressed that progress and easing of restrictions would be “led by data and not dates”, with a five-week interval between each new step. Before proceeding to the next step, the Government will examine the data to assess the impact of the previous step. This assessment will be based on four tests:

  • The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
  • Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
  • Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
  • Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

    With reference to live entertainment reopening within step 3 in May, the Covid-19 Response, Spring 2021 document states: “Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted, as will outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower.

    “The Government will also make a special provision for large, outdoor, seated venues where crowds can be safely distributed, allowing up to 10,000 people or 25% of total seated capacity, whichever is lower. In addition, pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing.”

    The recovery plan states that social distancing for indoor entertainment will be relaxed no earlier then 21 June.

    In response to the announcement, Julian Bird, Chief Executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre said:

    “We welcome the Government’s roadmap announcement as the country takes the first steps towards easing lockdown – in particular, the news that theatre and live arts can resume performances for Step 3 with social distancing, potentially as early as 17 May. The real route back for the sector will be the Step 4 announcements hopefully enabling full auditoriums from 21 June. These dates are still subject to change, however, and even once confirmed it will take time for many of our theatres and productions to get back up and running. While they remain closed and as they return to full operation, we urge the Chancellor to continue with the financial support packages needed for businesses and individuals.”

    If you’d like to support the many theatre professionals that are in need of urgent and critical financial support, please consider donating to the Theatre Artists Fund. Any donation, big or small, is so welcome and will be given directly to those in need.

    While we wait for theatres to reopen, please remember to check out our Virtual Theatre Fix page to find out where you can enjoy theatre online.


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