The U.K. government is piloting a scheme in Salford from October to test audiences at indoor and outdoor venues for coronavirus.
Addressing a press conference at Downing Street on Tuesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “Theaters and sports venues could test an audience, all audience members, one day and let in all those with a negative result, all those who are not infectious. Work places could be opened up to all those who test negative in the morning to behave in a way that was exactly as in the world before COVID.”
Johnson said the plan, which is still tentative and only limited to the Salford pilot so far, would require a “giant collaborative effort.” The new types of test could produce results in 20-90 minutes, said the Prime Minister.
“We are hopeful that this approach will be widespread by the spring. And if everything comes together, it may be possible, even for some of the most difficult sectors like the theaters, to have life much closer to normal before Christmas,” added Johnson.
Meanwhile, gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Sept. 14, as coronavirus cases rise sharply, prompting fears of a second wave.
The rule is applicable to people in private homes, indoor and outdoor spaces, pubs, restaurants, houses of worship and cafes.
Plans to pilot larger audiences in venues later this month and return audiences to stadiums and conference centers from October have now been paused. Johnson said that Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden would provide further information on this soon.
The rules are not applicable to schools and workplaces, or weddings, funerals and organized team sports. There has so far been no specific instructions on rules governing film and TV production sites. Exceptions to the new rules state that households and support bubbles bigger than six can socialize together, and gatherings of more six are allowed if it is for work or education purposes.
The rules are enforceable by law and police can fine offenders £100 ($130), with the amount doubling with each offence up to a maximum of £3,200 ($4,160). COVID-secure marshals will be deployed at city centers and potentially crowded areas.
The gathering rules are slightly different in the U.K.’s other three nations. Up to eight people from three different households can meet in Scotland; six people from two households can gather in Northern Ireland; and up to four households can form an ‘extended household’ in Wales.
“I want to be absolutely clear, these measures are not a national lockdown,” Johnson said. “The whole point of them is to avoid a second national lockdown.”
There were 2,659 new coronavirus cases and 32 new deaths in the U.K. on Sept. 8. The average daily rate of infection is 2,199 a day, four times what it was in mid-July.