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Industry welcomes reopening plan but wants answers on insurance

Live events leaders in England have reiterated calls for Government-backed insurance as they welcomed plans to end COVID-19 restrictions in the coming weeks.

Capacity limits and social-distancing requirements are to come to an end when England enters Step 4 of the roadmap out of COVID restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in a statement on Monday. A decision as to the date will be revealed next Monday (July 12) and is most likely to be July 19.

From the implementation date indoor and outdoor restrictions will be lifted, meaning full-capacity shows at theatres, arenas and stadiums. The Prime Minister also confirmed there would be no Government-imposed requirement for COVID certification, although he said companies would not be stopped from imposing their own policies should they wish.

While the reopening was welcomed by entertainment and hospitality chiefs.

Lord Lloyd Webber, the impresario and head of LW Theatres, said he was “thrilled” by the announcement.

However, enduring concerns over the feasibility of major events from a financial point of view were raised by LIVE chief executive Greg Parmley, among others.

“The live music industry is very pleased with the Prime Minister’s statement, and it seems we will finally see a return to full capacity performances on 19 July,” he said. “We have watched the rest of the economy reopen while our doors have been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic, but today’s announcements will generate considerable excitement amongst music fans across the country.

“To save the rest of the summer and autumn schedule we now desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme to provide the security required to invest in events. Government ministers have repeatedly said that a scheme would be announced once the legal barriers to full performances were removed. Well, we are now almost at that point and there must be no further delay if we are to reap the benefits of the superb vaccine roll-out.”

Last week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told MPs that ministers “will look at whether we can extend insurance with some sort of government-backed scheme” should commercial insurance providers not be willing to back events.

Paul Reed, chief executive for the Association for Independent Festivals (AIF), urged the Government to issue clear guidance for organisers and local authorities no later than July 12, so that events do not “unravel at a local level”.

With the threat of isolation remaining for those exposed to someone testing positive for the virus, Reed added: “We ask that Government also explore solutions for staff that will be affected by test and trace and isolation policies working at events this summer.”

While events can reopen in full, the Prime Minister reiterated that the virus remains a threat, and Mark Davyd, chief executive of Music Venues Trust, said it is important that venues ensure they put an emphasis on safety.

“Since March 2020, Music Venue Trust’s aim has been to Reopen Every Venue Safely,” he said. “This announcement is hugely important and provides the opportunity to revive live music. It does not, however, change the central mission or the importance of the word ‘safely’. We are re-energising our efforts to work with our fantastic network of grassroots music venues to ensure that what each of them delivers to the public meets the highest standards of covid security and safety within the new guidelines.”

SOLT & UK Theatre chief executive Julian Bird described the announcement as a “lifeline” for theatre.

He said: “We welcome today’s confirmation that July 19 will see the lifting of remaining lockdown restrictions – meaning that theatres can open to full audiences for the first time in 16 months. This is a lifeline for our industry, essential for the survival of theatres across the country. We will be working closely with Government in the coming days on revising the performing arts guidelines, ensuring that our audiences and staff can feel safe and confident in returning.”

Image: Denise Jans on Unsplash