Sport and theatre fans could be back in their seats without social distancing within WEEKS

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Sports and theatre fans could return to venues without social distancing within weeks as officials are ordered to move at ‘extreme pace’ to encourage crowds to attend events. 

Boris Johnson’s lockdown roadmap initially saw November 1 as the first date that social distancing could be lifted, but it is understood he wants to accelerate the plan for theatres and sports events.

This could see large venues welcome back crowds within weeks if new rapid turnaround tests are ready and coronavirus cases are brought under control, the Mirror reported.

Accelerated plans by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson could see theatres reopen without social distancing measures within weeks. Pictured: Audience members at the London Palladium sit with strict social distancing measures

Accelerated plans by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson could see theatres reopen without social distancing measures within weeks. Pictured: Audience members at the London Palladium sit with strict social distancing measures

The new plans could see people with tickets for football matches or theatre performances be tested in advance, and be chased up a few days after the event.  

A Cabinet source told the Mirror: ‘We are still being cautious but there’s a gear change now to find a way to do this safely and then people can make their own minds up.’ 

They added that social distancing in large venues ‘will not work’ in the long term because it is not financially viable.

Large sports venues need to be filled to at least 60 per cent capacity for them to be financially worth opening.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Boris Johnson reportedly ordered officials last week to ‘move at extreme pace’ to encourage crowds to return to large-scale events. 

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens told the Mirror that although they welcome moves to help large venues open, ‘safety remains the most important thing’. 

He added: ‘So far the Government’s failure to get a reliable and comprehensive test and trace system up and running does not instill confidence.’

Some pre-season friendly matches, including one between Brighton and Chelsea, has already seen some fans return with social distancing in place.  

More than 2,500 socially-distanced supporters made their way to Brighton's Amex Stadium on August 29 for a friendly against Chelsea

More than 2,500 socially-distanced supporters made their way to Brighton’s Amex Stadium on August 29 for a friendly against Chelsea

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that mass indoor events are now in his sights and, along with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is looking to encourage crowds back into large venues. 

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme could be reformed into ‘Seat Out To Help Out’, with one idea seeing discounted meals on Mondays for those with a ticket that day, The Sunday Times reported

A source told the Sunday Times that there have been meetings this week and Mr Johnson is keen on making rapid progress. They added that rapid testing will get audiences back. 

It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock was planning an astonishing rise in the number of Covid-19 tests carried out, in what has been dubbed ‘Operation Moonshot’. 

An increase in testing is hoped to get the economy back on track as Mr Hancock was said to be preparing an ambition to test four million people a day. 

Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, Mr Dowden said that innovation was key to getting audiences back into theatres. 

Writing in today's Mail on Sunday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said advances in rapid testing could mean on-the-day coronavirus tests could mean people could go to theatres that evening

Writing in today’s Mail on Sunday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said advances in rapid testing could mean on-the-day coronavirus tests could mean people could go to theatres that evening

He said advances were being made in quick turnaround testing, such as saliva tests being trialled by Southampton University, which means on-the-day coronavirus tests could mean those who test negative could visit the theatre that evening. 

Other ways could include technology which improves ventilation in venues, he added.  

Those attending theatres and stadiums could be tested in advance and then chased up a few days after the event. 

Theatres were allowed to open from August 15 with strict social distancing measures in place. 

This has reduced the capacity and many owners say it is not financially viable to run shows. They advise it should be between 70 and 80 per cent capacity. 

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme was launched by Rishi Sunak and saw the government pay 50% of the bill up to £10 per head at participating restaurants from Monday to Wednesday in a bid to boost the hospitality industry and keep jobs. 

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme was launched by Rishi Sunak and saw the government pay 50% of the bill up to £10 per head at participating restaurants from Monday to Wednesday

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme was launched by Rishi Sunak and saw the government pay 50% of the bill up to £10 per head at participating restaurants from Monday to Wednesday

Advances in rapid testing, such as saliva tests being trialled by Southampton University, could see people attending theatres or stadiums tested the day of the event (file photo)

Advances in rapid testing, such as saliva tests being trialled by Southampton University, could see people attending theatres or stadiums tested the day of the event (file photo)

Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who owns eight West End venues and has produced hits such as Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera and Hamilton, made 200 staff redundant last month.  

Boris Johnson pledged £1.57 billion to keep the arts sector afloat but Sir Cameron, together with his long-time collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber, urged the Government to do more.

On August 29, 2,524 socially-distanced supporters made their way to Brighton’s Amex Stadium for a friendly against Chelsea. 

Fans were made to keep a seat between them in the stadium with a capacity for 30,666 fans. 

There were plenty of hand sanitation points on the way to the ground and face coverings were required as fans queued to get in, but not when seated. 

They completed medical questionnaires ahead of the game and consented to the track and trace scheme.

However, large sports venues need to be at 60 per cent capacity for it to be financially viable. 

Source


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