Theatres must remain socially distanced for another four weeks, while rules on limits at weddings will be partially relaxed, it has been confirmed.
The Prime Minister has announced the ending of social-distancing rules, which had been scheduled for June 21, will be delayed for four weeks to July 19.
More than 30 guests will now be able to attend weddings, wedding receptions and other commemorative events such as wakes, but the capacity of venues will be limited by the requirements around social distancing.
The Government also aims to host between 10 and 15 further live event pilots in the four weeks leading up to July 19, including cultural events and Euro 2020 games at Wembley Stadium.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman also responded to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s comments in which he said he is determined to open his theatres from June 21 and is prepared to be arrested if authorities try to intervene.
He said: “We appreciate the pressure that certain sectors are under. That is why the DCMS are working with sectors on these events pilots to enable large events to proceed and we will be setting out more detail in due course.”
Sir Howard Panter, co-founder of theatre operator Trafalgar Entertainment, said postponing the end of lockdown measure would do “significant damage” to the theatre industry.
The 72-year-old told the PA news agency ahead of the official announcement: “The reality is we have marched the troops up the hill.
“We have mobilised a whole industry in order to get going because we have been keeping the industry going for the last 15 months.
“It costs money. We haven’t had Government help. We have kept it going.
“And now, surprise, surprise, the industry needs some income. People need work.
“Thousands of people have been mobilised in order to work in the theatre industry, to start work from next Monday and now we are being told, apparently: ‘Oh no, it’s not that date. It may be some other date, we don’t really know’.
“The ramifications for the theatre industry are extremely serious.
“But also the ramifications for all the industries which frankly work with and collaborate with the theatre – restaurants, hotels, hospitality, transport, taxis. You name it.
“There is a huge industry that relates to theatre. Theatre is the heartbeat of London and of many major cities.
“You take that away and those places may not open anyway, but they certainly not going to open without theatres.”
Sir Howard, whose shows Anything Goes and Jersey Boys face costly delays, said that while uncertainty remained over whether there would be a third wave of Covid-19, he was clear about the “significant damage to the theatre industry and all related industries”.
Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan said the four-week delay to the end of lockdown restrictions would leave venues unable to open with reduced capacity in a challenging position.
He said: “Today’s news of a four-week delay to step four of the reopening road map is wholly understandable given the rise in infection numbers and the Delta variant.
“However, it will be difficult for theatres who were depending on being able to reopen at full capacity and will already have committed considerable resources in preparation without the safety net of a theatre sector insurance scheme.
“Although many theatres have temporarily reopened with reduced audiences, continuing to operate at significantly reduced capacity is economically unsustainable.
“Other venues that were planning to reopen when full audiences were permitted may be forced to cancel shows.
“It is vital that the additional £408 million allocated to the Culture Recovery Fund in the Budget is distributed quickly and targeted to those organisations most impacted by this setback.”