UK government ministers are aiming to open theatres and sports stadiums by 1 November without social distancing.
According to The Sunday Times, the prime minister and Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, ordered officials to “move at extreme pace” to encourage crowds back into large venues.
After the “eat out to help out” scheme, which encouraged diners back into restaurants by subsidising their meals with state funding, the new scheme, “seat out to help out”, will aim to persuade people to return to watch live cultural and sporting events. Currently, theatres can only sell 25% of their capacity making almost all projects economically unviable: most theatres need to be between 70% and 80% full, and large sports venues need to operate at 60% capacity.
The government’s Operation Moonshot intends to test four million people a day for the coronavirus with new saliva tests that are being trialled at Southampton University. They should be able to give results within minutes. Those with tickets for theatres and stadiums would be tested in advance and then contacted in the days after the event.
Boris Johnson apparently wants to see venues open even before 1 November, with this new ‘world-beating’ plan.
There may also be a cut-price restaurant scheme on Mondays so ticket holders can benefit from cheaper pre or post-theatre meals.
A government official said,
Rapid testing is seen as the thing that can unlock the issue of getting audiences back. There have been meetings this week. Direction has been given at a very senior level to work at extreme pace on this. The PM is keen on making rapid progress.
The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will not be giving away any more cash other than the £1.57bn cultural recovery fund already announced, “but government will help devise ways to help”.
There is a desire to get things moving before the lucrative pantomime season. A government source said,
photo credit: Bosc d’Anjou The fourth wall via photopin (license)
It could be ‘tickets for a tenner’ on a Monday, with a link to local restaurants.