Covid restrictions are back in some European theaters

Opera theater


Other sites across the continent, where the pace of cancellations and restrictions has accelerated since last month, may not be in such a safe position. Latvia was one of the first countries to impose new restrictions on cultural life, when it ordered theaters closed from the end of October as part of a nationwide lockdown. Since then, many other countries and regions have imposed new, albeit varied, restrictions. This month, the Netherlands entered a partial lockdown that allowed performances to continue in front of a seated audience, but forced other venues such as bars and restaurants to close before 8 p.m. before announcing a nationwide lockdown a few days later.

Some sites that remain open in Europe are implementing additional security measures, even without a government mandate. In Berlin, performance halls are allowed to operate at full capacity, provided that participants prove that they are vaccinated, recovered or provide a negative test and are wearing a mask. But Sarah Boehler, spokesperson for Sophiensaele, a city theater, said her location would also require a negative test in addition to proof of vaccination or recovery. The theater expected city officials to demand such a move “in a week or two anyway,” she said, adding that it was better to get ahead.

There is one place that seems unlikely to see further restrictions on cultural life: Britain, where ruling lawmakers have spoken since July about the need to live with the virus. New cases of the coronavirus have averaged around 40,000 a day over the past month, and one of the government’s top science advisers said this week the country was “almost at herd immunity.”

In England, theater and opera goers are not required to wear masks or show proof of vaccination. Instead, each site can decide on their own requirements. Many West End theaters require proof of vaccination and most encourage spectators to wear masks, but the application varies.

This month, a cover of “Cabaret,” starring Eddie Redmayne at the Playhouse Theater, went a step further than other London shows in requiring attendees to test negative to enter. The Ambassador Theater Group, owner of the venue, said in a statement that “the privacy of the production”, in which the audience sits near the actors, was behind the decision. But no other theater seemed to follow his example.

Composer and theater manager Andrew Lloyd Webber told the BBC on Tuesday he would be happy to require masks and proof of vaccination at the six theaters he owns in London. “If that was what was needed to keep our cinemas open without social distancing, I think that’s a very small price to pay,” he said.