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Theatres reopen with ‘seat out to help out’

Theatres and sports stadiums will be allowed to open without social distancing within weeks under plans being accelerated by ministers with the backing of Boris Johnson.

The prime minister and Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, last week ordered officials to “move at extreme pace” to encourage crowds back into large venues.

The team behind the “eat out to help out” restaurant scheme has been reformed to draw up a “seat out to help out” plan to persuade people to attend cultural events once the restrictions are lifted.

One idea being looked at would see theatres and restaurants encouraged to team up to offer cut-price deals on Mondays, so those with a ticket that day could save on the cost of their pre or post-theatre meal.

In Whitehall meetings last week it was agreed that theatres and sports venues will become key beneficiaries of the government’s Operation Moonshot programme, which aims to test up to four million people a day for the coronavirus using new saliva tests that give results in minutes.

Proposals being worked on would see those with tickets for plays and football matches tested in advance and then chased up a few days after the event.

Under the government’s roadmap, November 1 is the first date at which social distancing might be lifted. But a senior government source said Johnson wanted to see things move more quickly.

“Rapid testing is seen as the thing that can unlock the issue of getting audiences back,” the official said. “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.”

Current rules, which require social distancing and the wearing of masks at cultural venues mean theatres can operate at only 25% capacity. Ministers have been told that to be financially viable that figure needs to be between 70% and 80%. Large sports venues need to be 60% full.                                                  Source:  The Times 6th September 20