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Concert arenas and nightclubs will be most affected as theatres prepare for a drop in ticket sales.

Masked audience members


England's Plan B for winter is "understandable" or "an unfair double standard" - depending who you ask.

Having kept the measures in reserve until now, Omicron's fast spread prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to issue a work from home order, mandate face masks in theatres, cinemas, museums and galleries and implement vaccine passports for large events, pending parliamentary approval next week.

Isolation for contacts of infected people will be replaced by daily testing to the relief of many. "'This will avoid the disastrous 'pingdemic' of the summer and help keep our shows open and our audiences entertained," SOLT and UK Theatre commented.


The edicts follow what much of the sector is advocating: Equity called on venues to require masks earlier this week, following SOLT and UK Theatre's lead.

Vaccine certification, already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will mainly apply to unseated indoor events with 500+ attendees, alongside unseated outdoor events of 4,000 people (a rarity in winter) and a handful of indoor venues with 10,000+ seats.

Nightclubs must check for a negative lateral flow test or double vaccination - booster jabs are not needed to enter events at this stage.

Industry body LIVE said music venues already have "tried, tested and workable systems" in place.

"The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to provie their Covid-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification."

However, the group echoed the Music Venue Trust's (MVT) gratitude that England's Covid pass policy recognises testing.

"MVT’s #TakeaTest policy has been extremely successful in limiting infection incidents in grassroots music venues," CEO Mark Davyd said.

Music most affected 

Vaccine passports will be mandatory at large venues like Manchester Arena, The O2 and Liverpool Arena.

Concert arenas will be the most affected part of the cultural sector - still, there are only 12 indoor stadia to which the new regulation would apply.

Few grassroots music venues will need to check for Covid passes based on their standing capacities, and there are no theatres in the UK with more than 10,000 seats.

Some, like Shakespeare's Globe, have mixed seating and standing capacity. A spokesperson for the venue said it had a mandatory mask and Covid pass policy in place prior to Wednesday's announcement.

Rosemary Squire, Chief Executive of Trafalgar Entertainment, said the theatre industry was "ahead of the game" on Covid safety.

She welcomed firmer guidelines from Government after concerns theatres wouldn't be able to enforce mask wearing for audiences.

"However, whilst these measures will increase confidence for some, there is a danger that further restrictions may amplify concern for others, particularly our more vulnerable audience members.

"We expect to be fielding calls as a result and, after a fairly extraordinary bounce back over recent months, we are concerned at the potential for some customers simply to stay away over the crucial Christmas period."

Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan said the return of working from home, while "understandable", will nonetheless affect theatres' takings.

"This will have a knock on effect on theatres’ viability at a vital time of year for the industry and Christmas shows that are just emerging from the significant loss of revenue in 2020 and early 2021.

"We hope the remaining Culture Recovery Fund money can be targeted swiftly to help theatres through this difficult period."

Path forward

England's restrictions are lighter touch than those in the other UK nations, raising concerns further changes will be needed.

Sage scientists have warned hospitals could field another 1,000 people a day by the end of the year.

Further guidance on implementation for venues is expected in the coming days.

Johnson said Plan B will remain in place for six weeks with a review in the first week of Janaury.

"It is now proportionate and responsible," he said.