The live industry will be able to resume at full capacity next week after the UK government confirmed that most COVID-19 restrictions in England will be lifted on July 19.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government will stick to the latest reopening date, when requirements such as social distancing, mask wearing and capacity restrictions on events will be lifted.
From the implementation date indoor and outdoor restrictions will be lifted, meaning full-capacity shows at theatres, arenas and stadiums.
While the official rules are set to change, businesses and venues will be expected to have a system in place that enables Covid-status certification to be checked – though it will not be a legal requirement.
Mayor of London Sajid Javid said venue operators would be “supported and encouraged” to use the NHS app to check the Covid status of their customers.
Johnson said: “As a matter of social responsibility we are urging night clubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS app, which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity as a means of entry.”
The live music and theatre industries have “warmly welcomed” the announcement, with many planning to continue implementing their own safety measures, such as cleaning stations, face coverings and contactless ticketing.
Mark Davyd, chief executive for Music Venues Trust, said: “For the last 12 months, we have been working tirelessly alongside venue operators to identify ways in which they can Reopen Every Venue Safely. That work remains at the forefront of everyone’s minds, but today we want to reach out to live music fans and send them a simple message: It’s finally time to Revive Live.
“Please help your local venue in England to provide safe events by thinking about your personal responsibility, the things you can do to ensure that as well as keeping yourself safe you are also doing everything you can to support the safety of others. We have all been desperately seeking the opportunity to Revive Live Music, and to show that we can do that safely. Let’s take this opportunity and demonstrate that we are a community that cares about each other.”
Julian Bird, chief executive of SOLT and UK Theatre, urged audience members to continue wearing face masks when they attend shows. He said: “The thousands of people who have already come back to the theatre since 17 May have been overwhelmingly positive about their experience and how safe and comfortable they felt.
“As we increase capacity, we want to ensure that this positive audience sentiment remains. For this reason, we hope audience members show respect for fellow theatregoers and staff by continuing to wear face coverings when coming into our venues and moving around them.”
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.
He said: “While we have been waiting for this moment for the past year, commercial insurance is still not available – meaning organisers are faced with the prospect of huge financial losses should any restrictions need to change. If Government really wants us to get back our feet, they need to make live events financially viable, provide the insurance scheme they have promised, and give the industry the confidence to invest for the long term.”
Parmley also said that barriers still remain which will severely impede the recovery of this £4.6bn industry, which “must be urgently resolved if we are to fully reopen.”
In addition to insurance concerns, LIVE has also pointed to self-isolation rules that have forced productions to collapse due to the need to isolate whole casts or crew when one person in a bubble contracts COVID-19. While the government has announced its plan to exempt those that are fully vaccinated from mandatory isolation from August 16, LIVE states that date is far too late for productions that are trying to get up now and may well be playing to full houses by July 19.
The live music industry trade body also said the arts need the same quarantine exemption that professional elite sport has obtained, which enables teams to come from around Europe to the UK play in the European Championship without quarantining. Currently, international artists are only able to play at the UK’s festivals, theatres and clubs following a period of quarantine, which many are unable to do due to other commitments.