Both ‘positives and negatives’ in new Covid rules, says theatre boss

New measures on mask wearing and the NHS Covid pass were announced last night.

London’s West End
London’s West End

A major West End theatre operator has welcomed tightened rules on mask-wearing in venues but warned new restrictions could “amplify concern” for some theatregoers.

Dame Rosemary Squire, joint chief executive of Trafalgar Entertainment, said there were both positives and negatives in new coronavirus measures announced on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that from a week’s time, individuals will need certification to access such spaces, with a negative lateral flow test among the list of accepted proofs.

The Prime Minister also confirmed mandatory mask-wearing will be extended to public places like cinemas and theatres from Friday.

Coronavirus – Wed Dec 8, 2021
Boris Johnson announced the new restrictions on Wednesday (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Dame Rosemary Squire said: “There are positives and negatives in the announcements made last night. We’re encouraged that the Government has acknowledged that theatres are a safe environment by not extending the proof of vaccination rules to indoor seated settings at our scale.

“This is a proportionate response and one which recognises the energy, hard work and commitment that the whole industry has put in to ensure Covid-safe operation since reopening.

“Similarly, the changes to the 10-day self-isolation rules are balanced and will be hugely helpful to producers in keeping shows open and touring through the winter. This is a positive step for an industry still recovering from the worst period in its history.”

She added: “Our sector was ahead of the game in recommending that face-coverings should be worn in theatres (unless exempt or consuming food and drink in bars or auditoriums) and, whilst there will be some challenges for our venue teams in enforcing the new rules, we welcome the fact that this move provides a clear and consistent line on this issue.

“We hope it will offer further reassurance to customers, performers and venue staff.

“However, whilst these measures will increase confidence for some, there is a danger that further restrictions may amplify concern for others particularly our more vulnerable audience members.

“We expect to be fielding calls as a result and, after a fairly extraordinary bounce-back over recent months, we are concerned at the potential for some customers simply to stay away over the crucial Christmas period.”

The chief executive of industry body UK Music warned of a potential return to social distancing measures.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “After an awful 18 months, the music industry has been desperate to recover – so the tightening of restrictions brings an unwelcome wave of uncertainty to the sector.

“It’s vital that the music industry stays open for business and people can carry on working as we recover from the devastating impact of Covid.

“We need to avoid, at all costs, a return to social distancing restrictions, which would make many concerts and live events unviable and risk sending some businesses to the wall.”

Cinema chain Vue confirmed that customers would need to wear masks in its venues.

A statement said: “As we have done throughout the pandemic, we continue to follow Government guidance.

“The safety of our teams and customers remains our top priority. From Friday (December) 10, in England, masks will be mandatory in cinemas unless eating or drinking. There is no current requirement to show a vaccine/Covid pass in English cinemas.

“We continue to look forward to welcoming our customers to our venues to sit back, switch off and enjoy the escapism the big screen offers.”

West End Stock
Cinema chain Vue confirmed that customers would need to wear masks in its venues (Ian West/PA)

However, Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the announcement was “devastating news for the nightlife sector”.

He added: “Vaccine Passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we have seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented, like Scotland, where trade is down 30%, and Wales, where it down 26%.”

Greg Parmley, chief executive of music industry trade body LIVE, said the new rules would create an “unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their Covid-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification”.

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