The U.K. government is facing mounting criticism from creative industries about the financial impact of its advice to the public to stay away from theaters and cinemas.
Because the government did not announce a formal ban on mass gatherings or instruct venues to close, as other countries have done, it has left many venues in the difficult situation of having to close down but unable to claim on insurance policies for lost income.
Theaters and cinemas in the U.K. are now voluntarily closing their doors as part of new social distancing measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Philippa Childs, head of broadcasting union Bectu, said: “The government needs to be clearer in its guidance and its language so that theater companies can claim insurance to ensure that staff are not left without pay for weeks on end. It is failing to provide the clarity it needs to and this must be addressed immediately.”
Meanwhile, Caroline Norbury, CEO of Creative England, added: “The advice issued by government is a crippling blow to the U.K.’s creative industries. As the social distancing measures announced are only advisory, rather than an outright ban, we are deeply concerned that creative organizations and cultural spaces will find they are unable to claim compensation for the huge losses they will experience as a result of Covid-19.”
Norbury said the measures have the potential to devastate the U.K.’s theaters, museums, cinemas and other cultural spaces, as well as the creators and freelancers who work within these industries.
The National Campaign for the Arts said today that the way the government has handled the situation would be “a disaster for freelancers and organizations alike, and may put the whole sector at risk. We need firm decisions, a clear directive and real support from the government to enable the £110 billion ($133 billion) creative industries to survive Covid-19 and help the U.K. economy to recover.”
Elsewhere, a circulating Change.org petition demanding the government carry out emergency legislation on social venue closures to trigger insurance claims has garnered almost 14,000 signatures.
The petition is also calling for additional governmental support for staff in leisure industries, as well as businesses, in order to allow them to reopen doors once coronavirus is contained.
In the U.K., coronavirus has now claimed 55 lives, while 1,543 people have tested positive for the virus.