England to Begin Easing Lockdown From March 8, Cinemas to Remain Closed For Now

As case rates plummet and vaccinations continue rapidly, England will begin easing lockdown from March 8, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to reveal Monday evening.

While schools are likely to open from March 8 in phase one of the easing, and some organized adult outdoor sports activities could resume from March 29 in phase two, entertainment venues such as cinemas and theaters are unlikely to reopen in March. Senior executives previously told Variety that they expected these venues to reopen in May.

Johnson’s roadmap is dependent on four conditions: that the vaccination program continues apace; evidence that vaccinations are reducing deaths and hospitalization; infection rates do not cause another surge in hospital admissions; and new variants of the virus don’t affect the easing of restrictions.

In phase one, two people from different households could be allowed to meet for a sit-down picnic outdoors, while in phase two, outdoor gatherings of six people or two households are expected to be permitted.

“We will be cautious about this approach so that we do not undo the progress we have achieved so far and the sacrifices each and every one of you has made to keep yourself and others safe,” Johnson said.

From March 29, people are expected to be allowed to travel out of their areas, though the guidance will be to stay local as much as possible, and overnight stays will be discouraged. The film and television production industry is not affected by this, as it has been permitted to operate through the various lockdowns, under strict COVID-safe protocols.

“Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to travel to their workplace. This covers all aspects of the film and television production process, including scouting and recces,” states the British Film Commission’s protocol document. It includes travelling for work purposes within England and internationally. Staying in a hotel for work purposes is permitted. Filming can continue to take place in the premises of businesses that are closed to the general public due to the lockdown. This includes work on films and television programs.”

The U.K. government aims to administer every adult aged 50 and above with the first dose of the vaccine by April 15 and every adult in the country by July. A third of all adults in the country have already received their first doses.

9,834 coronavirus cases were recorded in the U.K. on Sunday, with 215 deaths, a vast reduction from the January highs of 60,000 average daily infections and 1,500 deaths.

The devolved administrations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have their own set of restrictions and easing schedules, which are expected to hew closely to the ones in England.