Johnson confirms, museums can reopen from July 4

The Prime Minister’s confirmation today of a new relaxation of the lockdown allowing museums, galleries and cinemas it reopen from July 4 has been welcomed by national museums directors, but with caution and a warning from the union Prospect.

In a joint statement the directors of Tate, the British Museum, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the V&A and the National Gallery welcomed the announcement  to allow the safe reopening of our galleries to the public this summer. “We will now work closely with government, trade unions and supporters to see how and when we can open our doors again in a financially sustainable manner, for the long term” said Maria Balshaw, Hartwig Fischer, Ian Blatchford, Mike Dixon, Tristram Hunt and Gabriele Finaldi. “The British public have faced a wretched few months of isolation, loss, and anxiety in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.  The reopening of museums – whose galleries speak to the creative, resilient power of the human spirit – will provide solace and inspiration as Britain looks to the future.

“Museums live through the conversation between object and visitor. Our collections are held in trust not to be hidden away, but to be discussed, challenged, and loved: a role of particular significance as we reflect on current debates around crucial issues including racial equality, social justice, and climate change.”

But there was caution from the Prospect union, representing heritage sector workers, whose general secretary Mike Clancy said the union would be working with heritage employers to ensure safe re-opening can happen.  “With social distancing in place and tourism unlikely to recover for a while, in is unlikely we will see an immediate bounce back to pre-pandemic visitor numbers” he warned. “With heritage institutions now reliant on private funds for up to 80% of their revenue they still face an existential threat.

“Access to our cultural heritage is vital for the social health of our nation and to the economic recovery. If assets close they will be very hard to reopen in the future and vital jobs, skills and history may be lost. The government must commit to doing whatever it takes to see museums and galleries through the recovery in what is likely to be a difficult few years.”

Johnson also announced a reduction of the 2 metre distancing rule to 1 metre, which it is hoped will give scope for theatres and concert halls to reopen, as well as pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers’.

Enjoyment of the arts will still be a long way from normal, with cinemas and museums expected to introduce one-way systems, spaced queueing, more ventilation and pre-booking of tickets. It will also mean reconfiguring of seating for theatres and concert halls, with possibly shortened performances and more of them to meet demand.

A No 10 source said last night: “We are only able to move forward because the vast majority of people have taken steps to control the virus. But the more we open up the more important it is that everyone follows the distancing guidelines. We will not hesitate to reverse these steps if it is necessary to stop the virus getting out of control”.

 

 

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