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Lloyd Webber threatens legal action if reopening is delayed

Theatre impresario Lord Lloyd Webber has suggested taking legal action against the UK Government if venues are not allowed to reopen at full capacity from June 21.

The celebrated composer, whose LW Theatres group owns seven West End theatres, told the Daily Mail that a delay in England’s reopening beyond the date first suggested by Government back in February could prove to be “the final death blow” for the beleaguered sector.

Lloyd Webber is concerned that the Government will cave to pressure from some quarters to maintain social distancing restrictions after June 21, even if health experts confirm that indoor shows are safe. Indoor entertainment venues were reopened at reduced capacity last month, but many have stayed closed as they are not financially viable with fewer patrons.

Lloyd Webber told the Daily Mail if theatres are blocked from a full reopening, the issue becomes “what is the legality of the whole thing?”

He said: “If the Government’s own science has told them that buildings are safe, I’m advised that at that point things could get quite difficult. This is the very last thing that anybody wants to do, but there would become a legal case at that point because it’s their science — not ours.”

Remaining restrictions on social contact would be scrapped and shuttered businesses such as nightclubs would reopen on June 21 under the Government’s lockdown roadmap. An announcement on what happens on June 21 is scheduled to be made on June 14.

Official UK Government figures issued on Thursday showed a 38.9 per cent rise in cases to 26,972 in the last seven days compared to the previous period. Deaths were down 5.3 per cent, with 54 registered in the last week. Hospitalisations were up three per cent this week compared to the previous period, although that is an increase of just 25 cases to 857.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday: “It’s too early to say what the decision will be about step four of the road map, which is scheduled to be no earlier than June 21.

“Of course, I look at those data every day, we publish them every day, the case numbers matter but what really matters is how that translates into the number of people going to hospital, the number of people sadly dying.

“The vaccine breaks that link, the question is how much the link has yet been broken because the majority of people who ended up in hospital are not fully vaccinated.”

The Independent Sage group of scientists has released a statement today (Friday) warning that the rise of the Delta (Indian) variant in the UK will soar if England’s lockdown ends as planned.

An Independent Sage spokesperson said: “As things stand, it is very difficult to justify progressing with the last stage of the roadmap, scheduled for 21 June, a point that should be made now, to modify current false hopes.

“Public Health England figures released on June 3 suggest that the Delta variant has spread widely across the UK and is continuing to spread, that it has higher infectivity than the previous circulating variant, and that it is more likely to cause disease and hospitalisation.”

Image: Tracey Nolan / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Edited for size