The UK government has today (Friday) postponed the restart of socially distanced indoor theatre and music events on the eve of venues reopening in England, due to a spike of COVID-19 cases.

Socially distanced events were scheduled to open on August 1 in England following a pilot run performed at The London Palladium last week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We are postponing changes for at least a fortnight. Indoor performances will not resume, and pilot performances will not take place.

“Our plan to reopen society was conditional and relies on continued progress against the virus. Our assessment is that we should squeeze the brake pedal.”

Johnson has said that this may be eased on August 15, if COVID-19 cases decrease. Outdoor performances are still able to go ahead.

The move has halted the progression to stage four of the government’s five-stage roadmap for the return of professional performing arts.

Pilots for indoor performances and sports events are also suspended.

Sports stadia are still scheduled to begin reopening on October 1, though today’s news has affected pilot events. Fans were in attendance at the start of the World Snooker Championship today at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre, while spectators were this weekend due to watch the first two days of county cricket matches at the Kia Oval and Edgbaston. Around 4,000 racegoers were also expected to attend the Goodwood festival on Saturday. The World Championship will continue without fans for the remainder of the event.

Earlier this week, fans attended a UK sporting event for the first time since March as 1,000 people watched the friendly cricket match between Surrey and Middlesex at the Kia Oval.

The wearing of face masks will also be extended to other indoor settings such as museums, galleries and cinemas, which will become enforceable by law from August 8.

Earlier this week, the UK government announced that the first tranche of funding from its £1.57bn (€1.72bn/$2.02bn) cultural recovery package will be used to save around 150 grassroots music venues from insolvency. In addition, cultural organisations can apply for £880m in grants from next week.

Image: MrsEllacott (CC by 3.0)