England’s cinemas and theaters are set to return to full capacity from July 19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said today.
Live sports events and concerts will be allowed to operate as in pre-COVID times, at full capacity, and social distancing rules will be scrapped.
In addition, people in England will no longer be legally required to wear masks, a move that has been criticized by some leading scientists.
Nightclubs will be able to reopen and pubs and restaurants will no longer require ordering with QR codes. Meanwhile, working from home where possible will no longer be a government directive.
The plans are set to be finalized and confirmed next week, Johnson said.
Johnson admitted that the plan to re-open would result in more deaths. “This pandemic is far from over,” he said at the press conference. “It certainly won’t be over by the 19th, and we must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from Covid.
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“We must be honest with ourselves that if we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks, when we will be helped by the arrival of summer and by the school holidays, then we must ask ourselves, when will we be able to return to normal? And to those who say we should delay again. The alternative to that is to open up in winter when the virus will have an advantage, or not at all this year.”
Commenting on today’s announcement, UK Cinema Association Chief Executive Phil Clapp said: “The current social distancing requirements and capacity caps in place at cinemas in England have undoubtedly presented significant financial and operational challenges to many of our members, so we are pleased they will now be given the opportunity to respond more flexibly to audience demand. We hope to see similar announcements in the other UK nations shortly.
“We will continue to work with the government and our members to ensure that the big screen experience remains a safe and enjoyable one, something repeated public surveys have shown is recognised by the overwhelming majority of cinema-goers. As a result, we expect some safeguards – such as safety screens, provision of hand sanitisers and the implementation of enhanced cleaning regimes – to remain in place at many sites.”
There were 27,334 new Covid cases recorded in the UK on Monday. According to government forecasts revealed today, there could be 50,000 new Covid cases a day by 19 July. But the increase in vaccinations is keeping the death rate relatively low compared to previous spikes. The government is aiming for everyone over 18 to be double-jabbed by mid-September.
Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own timelines to come out of the pandemic.