News that COVID restrictions will be eased across England on 19 July is undoubtedly good to hear. The bookending of this painful period symbolised by the removal of mandatory mask-wearing and greater freedom in the hospitality sector gives a sense of uplift. Renewal. Recovery.
Be wary of getting carried away however. Arriving in my (and countless other journos) inbox as soon as the Prime Minister made his announcement was this comment from James Williams, the MD of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra:
“Whilst the Government’s announcement advising that Covid restrictions will be lifted from 19 July gives us all the sense of hope we need, to date the Government has failed to provide the performing arts with a sustainable operational roadmap that will ensure the economic viability of performances and the safety of venues, artists and audiences.
“There is an important task to be done rebuilding public confidence and providing the necessary reassurance that returning to the concert hall and the enjoyment of live performances can be done safely. This requires from Government a robust roadmap that sets out a transition from socially-distanced concerts to full-capacity events based on clear criteria, risk management protocols and meaningful, shared data from the Events Research Programme.
“Economically, venues and ensembles need full-capacity concerts, but the transition must be operationally and economically sustainable; the return to another lockdown in the autumn would be catastrophic for the sector.
“The RPO is fully committed to playing its part in the ‘building back’ that lies ahead, including enriching lives and supporting wellbeing after numerous lockdowns. But to be viable the economic sustainability of our work depends upon audiences and performers being safe in the concert hall.”
Restrictions are not over until all parts of the economy are able to function in the way they were before the pandemic hit.