This afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in Parliament the much anticipated four-stage plan to ease lockdown restrictions in England. As had been heavily trailed in the tabloid newspapers, theatres and other indoor entertainment venues will be amongst the last to reopen. Although no firm dates have been set, and all easing will be dependent on four measures, it is thought that it will be at least May before theatres can reopen for indoor performances.
Boris Johnson said that this would be a “cautious but irreversible route out of lockdown”. The roadmap applies to England only, with the other devolved nations expected to announce similar plans in the coming week.
After sharing the roadmap with Cabinet this morning, Boris Johnson committed a statement to the House of Commons at 3.30 this afternoon, in which he said there was no route to a “zero Covid Britain” but that the pace of the vaccination programme would allow a cautious easing of restrictions. This will be followed by a news conference at 7pm this evening.
The four measures which are required to be met for each stage of the easing are:
- The coronavirus vaccine programme continues to plan
- Evidence shows vaccines are reducing the number of people being admitted to hospital or dying
- Infection rates do not pose a risk of a surge in hospital admissions
- New variants of the virus do not impact the plan
Outdoor activity will be prioritised, and from 8th March all schools will re-open, and from 12th March outdoor gatherings of six people or two households will be allowed again, outdoor sports facilities will also reopen on these dates.
The second stage of the roadmap from 12th April, addresses non-essential retail, outdoor settings such as beer gardens, indoor leisure such as swimming pools and gyms, and self-contained holiday accommodation will all reopen.
But it won’t be until the third stage of the roadmap, coming no earlier than 17th May and assuming the four conditions are met, that theatres will be allowed to open for indoor performances, however, social distancing will remain in place as will caps on audience numbers, meaning many of the big West End shows are unlikely to be able to reopen on this date.
It won’t be until stage four, no earlier than 21st June, that legal limits on social contact will potentially be removed, and it’s been suggested that mass testing may be required to allow venues to reopen.
The roadmap will be reviewed four times over the coming months, and the Prime Minister has said that he cannot rule out restrictions being reimposed at any time at a local level. Theatre’s across the UK have been closed since 16th March 2020.