Andy Richardson: 'Some sectors see only dark at the end of the tunnel'
Individual sectors are waging their own war against Covid-19.
Pubs and restaurants are ready to open later this week. Not all businesses will return: for some, the issues surrounding one metre-plus, in addition to furlough, means they are better off closed. Many, however, have been coming to terms with the new regulations.
Construction has already returned and houses are popping up across the region while estate agents have enjoyed a mini boom as they satisfy pent-up demand.
The High Street is slowly returning to life; though the pace there is akin to a slumbering hedgehog waking after winter, rather than a Usain Bolt-esque sprint.
Tourist getaways, in contrast, have been overwhelmed as Brits plan their staycation on socially-distanced camp sites or shiny clean hotels. All people have to do now is understand that the UK has more to offer than a single beach in Bournemouth.
Other sectors, however, see only dark at the end of the tunnel. While driving licence instructors can sit less than a metre away from pupils and aircraft passengers can jostle elbows over who gets the arm rest, theatres and concert halls face closure. Such venues are in a peculiar place. Boris, the Infinite Wisdom King, has told them they can open but not host live performances. That’s the equivalent of letting restaurants open without serving food, pubs open without serving drinks or hotels open without having overnight guests: ie. It is bonkers.
It does, however, mean the Government need not take responsibility for a sector that employs around 400,000 and generates around £74 billion per year. Unless the Government introduces sector-specific support, the industry will collapse. Once furlough ends in October, around three quarters of theatres will run out of money and close. Oh yes they will. And a very Merry Christmas to you. We’ll no longer go to Lyceums, Palladiums and Palace Theatres to watch shows – it’ll be to eat burgers and drink ale when they’re converted into enormous pubs.
There are, of course, ways around this. Entertainment is one of the UK’s most creative industries and there have been numerous suggestions, from audiences wearing masks or coming from within a set area to venues taking the temperature of customers and introducing one-way systems; basically, a combination of what everybody else is doing. Audiences don’t sit face-to-face, of course, it’s side-by-side.
Time is ticking for an intervention.