Rapid coronavirus testing could enable nightclubs and theatres to reopen, Boris Johnson has suggested.
The PM said “rapid” lateral flow tests could be used by “those parts of the economy we couldn’t get open last year”. That, in combination with vaccination, will probably be the route forward,” he told a Downing Street news conference.
However he stressed it was “still early days”, with “lots of discussions still to be had”.
Nightclubs have been unable to operate since the pandemic broke and the first Covid lockdown in March 2020.
The Prime Minister said that he expects there to be an increase in “rapid testing” as more people get vaccine, saying: “Looking at the future, what we hope to have is such a high proportion of the population vaccinated that when you couple that with rapid testing – lateral flow testing – you really start to get the kind of answers that you’re talking about.
“So I think it’s in the context of having vaccinated a lot of the population, as we’re already doing – and we’ll do a lot more of in the next few months – that the rapid test approach will start, I think, to come into its own.”
The late-night economy has been closed since the first national lockdown almost a year ago, with almost 90% owing rent to its landlords, and has repeatedly raised concerns over an approaching ‘cliff edge’ when the forfeiture moratorium comes ends in March and tenants will no longer be protected from eviction.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said: “Finally we have some acknowledgement from the prime minister and government on the existence of late-night economy businesses, including nightclubs, theatres, casinos and late bars, particularly as they are some of the hardest hit since the start of the pandemic.”
Kill said the association has been lobbying the government to provide a strategy for safe reopening, and lateral flow testing has been considered for some time.
He added: “We feel now with this acknowledgement we will be given the opportunity to deliver pilot schemes which will substantiate the ability for this sector to open safely at the appropriate time, but more importantly we will be able to plan and prepare for that opportunity.”