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England will begin allowing indoor performances with socially distanced audiences next month.
United Kingdom prime minster Boris Johnson said at a press conference on Friday: “From 1 August, we will restart live indoor performances to a live audience subject to the success of pilots, and we will pilot larger gatherings, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn… From October, we intend to bring back audiences in stadia and to allow conferences and other business events to recommence. These changes have to be made in a covid-secure way subject to pilots.”
U.K. culture secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement: “The UK’s performing arts sector is renowned across the world and I am pleased that we are making real progress in getting its doors reopened to the public with social distancing. From August indoor theatres, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country.”
The government stressed that “audiences, performers and venues will be expected to maintain social distancing at all times.”
Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, called the news “a step in the right direction,” but said that “for most theatres it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30-40% audience required under social distancing. We now need to progress as quickly as possible to an announcement on the all-important Stage 5, allowing theatres to reopen fully with the appropriate safety measures. Without this, most theatres cannot reopen viably and we need the go-ahead for Christmas shows, on which the survival of many theatres depends, in the next few weeks at the very latest.”
Venues have been shut since March as part of the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The United Kingdom has confirmed more than 290,000 coronavirus cases and more than 45,000 deaths. That makes it one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.