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England Moves To ‘Plan B’ As COVID-19 Hammers The Live Industry

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LONDON (CelebrityAccess) — Music Venue Trust, the advocacy group for independent venue operators in the United Kingdom, warned that the nation’s live industry is once again facing dire peril amid renewed COVID-19 restrictions as the nation battles the Omicron variant.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the nation would enact its Coronavirus Plan B as the country urges its citizens to ensure they are vaccinated.

The measures include a requirement for mandatory face coverings in public indoor venues, with carveouts in venues where it is not practical to wear one, such as when you are eating, drinking or exercising.

From Wednesday 15 December, and subject to parliamentary approval, an COVID-19 pass demonstrating proof of vaccination will be mandatory for entry into nightclubs and other live entertainment venues, including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.

Other nations in the U.K., including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have already implemented similar restrictions.

However, Johnson noted that the country was not returning to a lockdown, and Johnson urged citizens to continue with holiday plans as long as government guidelines are followed.

“The best way to ensure we all have a Christmas as close to normal as possible is to get on with Plan B,” he told the BBC. “Irritating though it may be, it is not a lockdown.”

Following the announcement of the move to Plan B, Music Venue Trust warned that the nation’s grassroots music venues are facing a crisis with 86% of Grassroots Music Venues reporting negative impacts and 61% having to cancel at least one event in the week of 6-13 December.

According to MVT, 35 percent of canceled events are caused by a member of the touring party testing positive for Covid-19. Organizers of private hire bookings cancelling events, including holiday parties, accounted for 31.3% of cancellations while poor sales performance was behind 23.6%.

Even for shows that haven’t been canceled, Omicron is hitting audience numbers and a survey of the sector conducted by MVT in the last 24 hours shows attendance at shows dropped by 23%, with over 140,000 ‘no shows’ from ticket holders resulting in a 27% decline in gross income.

“This is the busiest time of the year for Grassroots Music Venues, representing more than 20% of their annual income being raised during the party season. Rapid declines in attendance at this time of year represent an exponential threat to the whole sector, and losses of this magnitude cannot be sustained without throwing hundreds of music venues into crisis mode and at risk of permanent closure. A ‘no show’ isn’t just lost ticket income, its lost bar take and excess staff costs.”

England’s theater district in London’s West End has also been hit by the COVID-19 outbreak and numerous performances, including Hamilton, The Lion King, Life of Pi, and Matilda the Musical, have all canceled shows.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Comedy of Errors at the Barbican in London has also suspended all shows until December 22nd due to an outbreak in the company.

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