House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images – Prime Minister Boris Johnson updates MPs in the House of Commons with the plan for living with COVID, Feb. 21.
England at least will lift all coronavirus rules by Thursday, Feb. 24.
The UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced Feb. 21 the end of all coronavirus restrictions in England by Feb. 24. The live industry has reacted.
The scrapped rules include the duty for those who test positive for coronavirus to have to self-isolate, which has been making life hard for independent businesses relying on few staff especially. Johnson’s new plan is to live with COVID.
According to a report by the BBC
, the prime minister thought it was time to move away from government restrictions and to a position of personal responsibility.
“Covid will not suddenly disappear so those who would wait for a total end to this war before lifting the remaining regulations would be restricting the liberties of the British people for a long time to come”, his remarks in parliament are quoted by the BBC, adding, “This government does not believe that this is right or necessary. Restrictions pose a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental well-being and on the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that heavy cost any longer.”
Free mass testing sites for COVID will close, effective April 1, as the government can no longer afford to spend about $2.7 billion a month on them, which will be “a boost to resource levels across the security industry,” according to a UK Door Security Association spokesperson. “It is important as we move into the summer that we regain and build on pre pandemic security resource levels in line with demand. This summer will see the rejuvenation of the festival season after two years of lost trade, and will need the security sector to be at its best,” the spokesperson continued.
– Paul Reed.
CEO Association of Independent Festivals.
Paul Reed, CEO of the UK’s Association of Independent Festivals, commented, “While we welcome legal restrictions around Covid-19 coming to an end and the prospect of a full-capacity festival season, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt by the independent festival sector and the need for government action remains. With festival organizers facing crippling cost increases of up to 30% across operations and infrastructure, this is not back to business as usual for festivals and it is not a case of ‘job done’ for ministers.”
Only last week, AIF warned that a live entertainment supply chain crisis, workforce shortages, and the effects of Brexit could create a “perfect storm” as the 2022 festival season approaches.
After the latest government announcement, the association “reiterates its call for ongoing support from government in the form of continued VAT relief on festival tickets to maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March; and to also explore some form of Government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.”
The country’s live industry body LIVE called for the government to work with the industry to consider a cultural VAT rate of 5% on ticket sales for the foreseeable future, as well as a further extension of the current business rates relief scheme until the end of the 2024/25 tax year.
– Greg Parmley
CEO of LIVE.
LIVE CEO Greg Parmley commented, “The end of COVID-19 restrictions represents a huge, welcome relief to the live music sector, which lost billions in revenue throughout the pandemic. But with spiraling costs and thousands of companies struggling with pandemic debt, it’s crucial that Government does not abandon and set the sector adrift, just as it starts to tread water again.
“We are calling for a reverse to the planned hike in VAT rates and the imminent end to business rates relief in order to avoid further business closures and job losses within our sector.”
Greg Marshall, general manager of the UK’s Association For Electronic Music (AFEM), said, “the fragility of the chain of businesses and individuals which make up the electronic music club and events ecosystem needs to be recognized. Ongoing support measures will be required to ensure the recovery of this sector, in parallel with industry action to build consumer confidence and ensure a return of audience numbers to all event types in the long term.”
The country’s Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) also welcomed today’s announcement, and equally emphasized that further economic support to regain consumer confidence and ensure a full recovery from the pandemic was necessary.
NTIA – Michael Kill
CEO of the UK’s Night Time Industries Association.
“Despite this most recent announcement, we will remain focussed on our responsibility to keep customers and staff safe, maintaining baseline mitigations as we have done since the 19th July 2021,” NTIA CEO Michael Kill commented.
And he continued, “experts have suggested that recovery to pre-Covid trading levels will take several years, but even this will require the helping hand of government in supporting the sector, beginning with the Chancellor’s upcoming Spring Statement.
“Businesses will be making investment and staffing decision based on the chancellor’s statement. With many businesses still in a precarious position, ensuring the right support package is in place will be critical.
“We are calling for the extension of VAT & business rates relief to allow businesses the financial headroom to survive. This is a sector that has sacrificed more than just about any other part of the economy, and it seems right that continued support is commensurate with the scale of hit that we took during the pandemic.”
The Feb. 24 date is only relevant for England. The other UK nations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still had various restrictions in place at press time.