Dowden warns live events industry of Covid-19 variant ‘heightened vigilance’

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has warned the live events industry that the country is entering a “period of heightened vigilance” due to the spread of the Indian coronavirus variant.

He said on Twitter the Government would continue to assess the spread of the variant in the coming weeks and update venues on their reopening.

Limited audiences will be allowed back into theatres, music venues and sports stadiums from Monday as part of step 3 of the Government’s road map out of lockdown.

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Step 4, planned for June 21, would see social distancing end and many venues able to stage shows to a full house for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Mr Dowden said: “The crucial road map date for theatres, music venues and sports has always been step 4, so I understand this is an anxious time as we assess the situation over the next couple of weeks.

“We continue to make good progress with the vaccine rollout and with testing the safe return of audiences through the Events Research Programme, but must accept we enter a period of heightened vigilance with the new fast-moving variant.

“We will keep engaging with, and updating, organisations to allow everyone to plan their full reopening.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned England will face “hard choices” if the Indian variant turns out to be much more transmissible than others.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has concluded there is a “realistic possibility” the strain is 50% more transmissible than the one that emerged in Kent.