Compulsory masks and 'vaccine passports' for theatres - but no social distancing for now

les mis west end
Les Misérables in the West End. Picture copyright: Stage Chat

Theatres across England will be able to continue to open without social distancing, it’s been confirmed.

The latest update to the rules from the government, coming in force from Friday, have introduced compulsory face masks at theatres, concert venues and cinemas.


In addition, indoor venues with capacities of more than 500 (which includes almost all West End theatres) will be required to use the NHS Covid Pass to admit audience members.

The Covid Pass provides proof of either a vaccine or negative Lateral Flow Test (LFT).

“It’s not a lockdown, it’s Plan B,” prime minister Boris Johnson said in a news conference this evening.

The government has also encouraged working from home from Monday, 13 December.

Many venues in London and across England have already made masks and the Covid pass mandatory as a condition of entry.

Some have gone further than the government guidelines, asking audience members to provide a negative test even with proof of vaccination. It’s recommended to check the venue’s website if you’re attending a show over the festive period.

In a response to the new measures, the Society Of London Theatre and UK Theatre commented: “We understand the government’s decision to introduce Plan B and are heartened to see amendments have been made to make it easier for our theatres to operate.

“Theatres remain fully open and will continue to offer much-needed respite from the current challenges, in a safe and ordered environment. We are grateful to all our audiences for their ongoing support.

“Our industry-wide See it Safely protocols give audiences confidence that a theatre is operating in accordance with the latest official guidelines – as part of these, we have always strongly recommended the wearing of face coverings throughout our buildings, and the government’s move to make them mandatory will help our hardworking Front of House staff keep our venues safe.

“Although the current NHS Covid pass recommendations do not apply to theatres, it is good to see that the government has included lateral flow test results as part of the pass alongside proof of vaccination – something our industry had been advocating for.

“Finally, we welcome the news that isolation requirements are to be replaced by daily testing for contacts of people infected by Omicron – this will avoid the disastrous ‘pingdemic’ of the summer and help keep our shows open and our audiences entertained.”

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