Dowden ‘confident’ over removal of social distancing and event restrictions

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The Culture Secretary has insisted he is working to end social distancing rules and remove all restrictions on live events by the “terminus date” of July 19.

Oliver Dowden delivered an upbeat assessment to MPs when asked by Conservative MP Chris Green (Bolton West) whether restrictions would be lifted “permanently” at the final stage of Boris Johnson’s road map out of lockdown.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Green said: “The Secretary of State for Health said that if the direction of travel with Covid is maintained, then we will be able to have our terminus day on July 19.

“So does he agree with me that terminus day means an end to social distancing, an end to compulsory masks wearing and a full return to normal, not just for the end of July but permanently?”

“We are hopeful and indeed confident we will be able to remove as planned at Stage 4 all the remaining legal limits on social contact, reopen the remaining closed settings and remove all limits on weddings and other live events, and that is very much what I am working towards.”

Labour’s Jeff Smith (Manchester Withington) also questioned whether it was fair to ask nightclub bosses to start contributing 10% towards the salaries of furloughed staff on Thursday given they are not yet permitted to reopen.

He said: “Nightclubs can’t open today, they don’t know what capacity and rules they will be working under when they do, they have no income, they are still racking up debts, and today they have to start paying towards furlough payments.

“Does the minister think that is fair on them?”

Revellers at a nightclub in Liverpool
Revellers at a nightclub in Liverpool for a Covid safety pilot event (PA)

“The key thing is to get them to reopen and we are making very good progress towards doing that on the 19th.

“And of course many of these existing schemes, certainly in relation to the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), will continue to pay out for the coming weeks and months.

“Indeed, we have said that payments can be made in respect of the CRF until the end of this year, so a wide range of support remains available for our cultural institutions.”

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