Dowden hopeful for unrestricted theatre from June


Culture minister Oliver Dowden
Culture minister Oliver Dowden

A series of indoor Covid tests has led Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to believe the full, untethered use of theatres and indoor entertainment is likely to be possible by the government’s roadmap fourth step on June 21.

Only 15 coronavirus cases were detected during the testing, carried out by the government's Events Research Programme in April and early May, involving almost 60,000 people.

A large-scale test covering the World Snooker Championships at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre resulted in only four cases, while having 4,000 unmasked people at the BRIT Awards at London’s O2 with no special measures resulted in no cases.

Dowden said the tests had been so successful that next month could see the dropping of social distancing and other restrictions, promised when the government’s roadmap was revealed.

The theatre industry has already suggested any further delay in the easing of social distancing and venue attendance limits could do serious damage to British theatre’s recovery, after more than a year of closure.

Several theatres and touring show producers have already made serious inroads into starting the resumption of full-scale touring after June 21, expecting restrictions to be dropped.

The Prime Minister is likely to make the decision on the roadmap’s fourth stage by June 14.

“There are two questions: can we go ahead with stage four on June 21? I hope we can. We’re definitely not ruling it out,” said Dowden. ”The second question is about the sort of mitigations you might have to put in place.”

The latter are set to include such things as proof of double-vaccination or a “clean” Covid test result. Dowden has stated that if stage four goes ahead, it has to be on terms that ensure no further strictures will be necessary.

Update: The Prime Minister has since postponed the removal of all restrictions until July 19 due to the rise in variant strains of coronavirus, mainly among the young and unvaccinated