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Fast testing could pave the way for open theatres

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The government has announced an intended programme of fast mass testing – which could allow theatre audiences to return without social distancing this year.

The Prime Minister has unveiled plans to test the scheme in October, then use it nationwide.

Boris Johnson suggested the scheme might be implemented for theatrical productions, possibly in time for Christmas and by spring in most sectors.

The move follows culture secretary Oliver Dowden’s article last weekend saying he wanted live theatre to return as soon as possible.

The new plans feature “simple, quick and scalable” tests that take no more than 20 minutes. A negative test would allow a person to mix freely with other people who have tested negative. Millions of tests would be required for such a plan, but theatres, workplaces and even large scale outdoor events would be possible. 

As yet such a testing regime is not available, and the immediate reality is of new, tighter restrictions on social gatherings to no more than six people (with some exceptions), to combat potential spikes in coronavirus cases.

The exceptions will include “Covid-secure venues”, suggesting theatres will not be affected if the testing regime goes ahead as intended. Theatres will not be allowed to book more than six seats in one booking – the maximum personal "bubble" under the new rules.


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