British cinemas and theatres have been told they must close on Friday night as the UK takes another step closer to lockdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced the measures at his daily press conference, asking entertainment venues to “close tonight, as soon as they reasonably can, and not open tomorrow.” Cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants and gyms are subject to the same order.
The move cements action already taken by multiplex cinema chains. Odeon, Cineworld, Vue and Showcase have already closed their doors in the UK, but some independent operators have remained open. Big theatre productions have also shutdown.
Johnson said the situation will be reviewed every month in the hope the measures can be relaxed. “I know this goes against the freedom-loving instincts of the British people,” he said. “We will get through this.”
Alongside the social order, the British government announced an enormous “coronavirus job retention scheme,” under which it has guaranteed to pay 80% of wages for people who are not working.
“Today I can announce that in the first time of our history, the government is going to step in and help pay people’s wages,” said chancellor Rishi Sunak. “Government grants will cover 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month — that’s just above the median income.”
It is not clear if the “job retention” measure will be extended to support freelancers, which make up the backbone of the TV and film industry. The only part of the scheme that appeared to be aimed at those who are self-employed is deferring self-assessment tax payments until January 2021.
Trade union Bectu tweeted: “The chancellor has just announced delay in tax payments which what [sic] we’ve been calling for all along, but still nothing to replace freelancers’ income. We know this is not good enough – we will keep pushing for you during these desperate times.”
There are now 3,269 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, while 177 people have died of the disease.