For months now, our lives have been on hold.
When the call came in March, we paused a lot of the things that light up our lives.
Meal with friends.
Going to the cinema or the theater.
We had to close our gyms and swimming pools.
Cancel our vacation.
And postpone some of our favorite events.
But as we’ve made huge strides against this disease, we’ve slowly seen the things we love come back.
Today, I am very happy to announce that we can go a step further. From this weekend, our artists, musicians and dancers can start performing live outside in front of the public. We will also have the resumption of recreational sport, followed later by the reopening of our gymnasiums, swimming pools and recreation centers.
Normal life is gradually returning.
This is an important milestone for our performing artists, who have been waiting patiently backstage since March. Of course, we won’t see crowds flocking to their rooms. But from July 11, our theaters, operas, dance and music performances can start offering outdoor performances to a socially distant audience.
This means that theatergoers can catch a live performance for the first time in months at places like the magnificent Minack Theater in Cornwall. And music lovers will be able to attend Glyndebourne this summer.
We are taking various measures to secure these places when they reopen. Site capacity will be reduced and organizations encouraged to switch to electronic ticketing, to help test and trace.
But our performers deserve an audience. And now they will have one.
And as these outdoor performances begin, we’ll work with public health experts to carefully pilot a number of indoor performances – from the London Symphony Orchestra to St Luke’s in Butlins – to determine how confidently we can. welcome a socially distant audience indoors as soon as possible.
At the same time, we fund scientific studies to help us understand and mitigate certain specific public health risks, such as the impact of vocals, wind instruments and brass instruments on transmission.
The more we know about the coronavirus in each setting, the safer we will be.
We’re also taking action through the planning system to protect theaters and venues from demolition or change in use, and of course all of that communication on top of the unprecedented £ 1.57bn package of support emergency to help artistic, heritage and cultural institutions survive the COVID storm.
But, of course, we want all of our sites to open as soon as it is safe to do so.
Today’s announcement brings us one step closer to that reality.
After having authorized the reopening of hairdressing salons, beauticians, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other local services can now do the same, I am pleased to say from Monday. Of course, this will be subject to certain restrictions on particularly high-risk services.
As I myself saw at the Royal Academy this morning, at the National Gallery, and as we will soon see from the National Museums Liverpool, our cultural institutions are also starting to welcome visitors again.
As these places start to reopen, I really urge people to come out and play their part. Buy tickets for outdoor plays and music recitals, visit your local gallery, and support your local businesses.
We have seen in recent weeks how our owners, servers and vendors have welcomed customers with open arms, while doing so much to keep their communities safe. It’s time to give other businesses those same opportunities.
The Chancellor this week presented an exceptional package of tax breaks for tourism and hospitality, to revive these industries and protect the millions of people who work for them.
This means reduced VAT on everything from tickets to shows, theaters, amusement parks, museums and zoos.
Reduced costs for hotels, hostels, caravans and campsites.
Vouchers for food and non-alcoholic drinks.
I urge the British people to make the most of this summer in safety. We need them to support the places we all love.
And today there is good news for the fitness of our country.
As we all know, exercise is extremely important for physical and mental health. Even at the height of the lockdown, it was seen as an essential activity – with countless people frequenting their parks for their daily run or turning their lounges into temporary gyms.
Starting this weekend, millions of people will be able to join their local sports teams as soon as their organizations issue approved guidelines. Recreational cricket is back this weekend. Five-a-side football, basketball, hockey and countless other sports would follow shortly thereafter.
From this Saturday, they will also be able to enjoy the outdoor swimming pools and water parks.
And from Saturday 25, people will no longer have to train in the park or on the floor of their living room. They will be able to return to their gyms, indoor pools, recreation centers, and jump on the spinning bike or treadmill for the first time in months.
Now, we’ve had a number of positive gym visits over the past few weeks, and of course we were hoping to do so sooner. But we really have to phase this properly. We’ll give gyms the certainty, clarity, and time they need to safely reopen, so the maximum number can open their doors in just two weeks.
Again, we have worked intensively with professional bodies and experts to get there, and the facilities will need to take a number of steps to protect their communities. This includes, for example, the use of scheduled reservation systems to limit the number of people using the facility at any given time and the reduction of class sizes. Equipment will be spaced out and cleaning will be improved throughout.
As always, the public will need to do their part and follow directions wisely and safely. All of the actions we take are conditional and reversible. And we will not hesitate to impose lockdowns where there are local peaks – as we have seen in Leicester, where things remain closed and of course in any other location when necessary.
But the return of gyms and recreational sport is a critical part of our battle against the coronavirus.
We must get the nation to prepare to overcome this disease.
And our fight started with a collective effort, and I really hope it ends with one. At first we all stayed at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
Now the British public has a new role to play.
It’s time to eat out to help.
To take advantage of the arts to help.
And to work to help.
It is up to all of you to help the country to a safe recovery.