After months of allowing audiences to see shows without a mask, U.K. theatre owners are changing their tune. A number of venues throughout the country are now imposing mask requirements, including Royal Shakespeare Company, Andrew Lloyd Webber's West End Theatres, The Old Vic, and the National Theatre.
The New York Times reports the change follows U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to require masks on public transportation and in stores. That move was announced after a highly contagious variant of COVID-19, Omicron, was detected in several countries.
While the mask mandate is a voluntary move for theatre operators, policies could change December 19, when the U.K. government reviews its current health and safety guidelines.
The performing arts industry was shuttered in March 2020 for over a year due to the initial outbreak of COVID-19 but shows began reopening in London's West End and elsewhere by the end of the year, with limited capacity and masks and at a stop-and-go pace. Shows returned with more stability come May.