Significant examples of close contact include: “face-to-face contact under one metre for any length of time”, “being within one metre of each other for one minute or longer”, “being within two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes in total in one day”. Think of a major show and you see how everything can come tumbling down with just one hiccup.
So far, the rule of thumb has been that even if you can demonstrate a negative test result for those affected by close contact, the isolation rules remain in force – though it seems to have been left to management teams, taking advice, to make the call as to who needs to isolate.
Today, imminent change may be announced. The Government is reportedly planning – come July 19 – to make it easier for those who have been double vaccinated to carry on as normal if they come into contact with a positive case. Yet given the large numbers of (unvaccinated) people in the theatre industry below the age of 40, that comes as no immediate consolation.
Some things look as if they’re about to be relaxed – besides the lifting of social distancing, face-masks may become voluntary and there may be no required scanning of the NHS Test and Trace QR code to enter venues. Of course, while a welcome sign at some level, this gung-ho approach risks driving up infection rates. What about the remaining protocols aimed at containing outbreaks?
What the sector has been crying out for throughout the crisis is clarity. And government-backed insurance (you can’t help noticing that Oliver Dowden was happy to be photographed attending Hairspray, but where is the help from DCMS now with insurance?) Without these essentials what may unfold in the run-up to and follow-on from ‘Freedom Day’ is more chaos, morphing into full crisis.
That may sound highly pessimistic but the current situation is, to quote playwright James Graham, who took to Twitter at the weekend to vent his growing dismay, “unsustainable”. Those on the front-line aren’t mincing their words. Jamie Chapman Dixon, a producer on Death Drop, considers his imminent magic show Wonderville at the Palace and admits: “We’re petrified. We’ve got A-to-H plans in place to rotate guest acts in, lots of people in back-up roles , including stage-managers, just in case anything happens. They all have to be paid for, which adds about a third to the budget. All it takes potentially is one outbreak to stop the show. With a full audience, you could close for two weeks, costing tens of thousands of pounds a night, which would be worse than being at 50 per cent capacity.”