Cinema patrons will be able to remove their facial coverings to consume food and drink, the U.K. Cinema Association confirmed on Wednesday, citing a directive from the U.K. Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).
“Pleased to confirm that while guests will be asked to wear face coverings in cinemas in England from this Saturday 8 August, once in the auditorium they will be able to remove them in order to enjoy food and drink,” the U.K. Cinema Association tweeted.
The U.K. government has taken swift action as the country recorded the highest number of fresh coronavirus cases since June on Thursday, with a spike of 846 new cases.
Face coverings will now be compulsory in museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship from Aug. 8, it was confirmed Friday. The new safeguards will be enforced by a “greater police presence,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The new guidance on face coverings in cinemas has been welcomed by the Cineworld Action Group, which represents some staff from the cinema chain’s U.K. theaters. The group launched a petition in late June calling for management to ensure that audience members wear masks within cinemas. On Friday, the org encouraged the Scottish and Welsh governments to enforce similar standards around face coverings.
“We must be willing to react to the first sign of trouble,” said Johnson, who announced the new restrictions at a press conference at Downing Street on Friday. “I won’t stand by and allow this virus threat to cause more pain and heartache.”
“We should now squeeze that brake pedal to keep the virus under control,” said Johnson, who was diagnosed with coronavirus in late March and had to be hospitalized. His ordeal is now being adapted into a drama directed by “The Trip” helmer Michael Winterbottom.
Meanwhile, live theater venues, which were due to reopen Aug. 1, will stay closed for at least another two weeks. However, most venues, which have been unable to open due to strict social distancing requirements, were likely going to stay shuttered anyway.
Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, said: “It is disappointing that socially-distanced indoor performances will not be able to go ahead tomorrow. However in reality, the majority of theaters were not planning to reopen for shows tomorrow so a two-week delay will not make a huge difference. Most theaters will not be able to put on productions until we reach Stage 5, which allows fuller audiences, so that is the most critical date for much of the sector.”
The U.K. was in Stage 4 of easing of the lockdown that was imposed March 24.
The government’s decision comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced late on Thursday that fresh restrictions would be applied to the North of England, including Greater Manchester, from early Friday morning, including the banning of mingling households.
The U.K. has also reintroduced the 14-day self-isolation requirement for travellers arriving from Spain and Luxembourg.
The U.K. has recorded 302,301 coronavirus cases, with 45,999 deaths.