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UPDATE: The U.K. Cinema Association has issued a statement confirming that face coverings will be required in all cinemas except when eating or drinking.

“Face coverings were required in all U.K. cinemas when they were allowed to re-open in May following the last lockdown, and are still required in cinemas in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,” says Phil Clapp, chief executive of the U.K. Cinema Association. “So if nothing else yesterday’s announcement brings cinemas in England in line with the rest of the UK.

While we understand that some customers do not like having to wear a face covering, these can be removed to eat and drink, and will we believe be seen by most audience members and by cinema operators in England as a reasonable measure given the current circumstances.

It is worth noting that the announcement did not require the introduction of COVID passes or ‘vaccine passports’ for cinemas in England. This is something we very much welcome, not least given the proven safety of the cinema environment, but also all we have seen of the impact of these measures in Northern Ireland and in particular Wales.”

The U.K. government has urged citizens to work from home and introduced mandatory vaccine passports in some entertainment venues as the Omicron venue continues to cause cases of Covid-19 to rise across the country.

In an emergency press conference, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the government were introducing a “Plan B,” which involved three prongs:

– Extension of mandatory mask-wearing including in cinemas and theaters;
– Urging citizens to work from home if possible; and
– Introducing mandatory vaccine passports in some entertainment venues including nightclubs.

As of Friday, vaccine passports will be mandatory in any unseated indoor venue with a capacity of more than 500 people, any unseated outdoor venue with capacity of more than 4000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

Lateral flow tests may also be accepted in the place of vaccine passports.

Though it was not immediately clear, it is expected that entertainment venues such as cinemas and theaters will also require vaccine passports.

568 cases of Omicron have been detected in the U.K. so far but scientists believe the true number is likely to be much higher. They are also concerned about how quickly the variant appears to be spreading and fear that by January Omicron could be the cause of 1,000 hospital admissions a day, potentially crippling the National Health Service.

The new restrictions were announced as Johnson battles yet another publicity crisis following reports that his staff held a Christmas party last December in contravention of the rules against public gatherings. The Prime Minister has claimed all rules were adhered to.