UK Politics: Govt to pump nearly £1.6bn into arts and culture sector

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Theatres have been forced to close during lockdown
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The government will invest £1.57 billion to help arts and culture venues avoid closures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Tradefair brings you the latest from UK politics...

This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations."

- Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has announced government investment of £1.57 billion to help arts, culture and heritage venues like theatres, galleries and museums cope with the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The money will come in the form of grants and loans designed to "help safeguard the sector for future generations", the prime minister said.

It comes after a weekend of reopenings in England, with venues including pubs, restaurants and cinemas given permission to start welcoming customers again from July 4.

Safeguarding the sector

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the newly announced support package is comprised entirely of "new money" and will help "crown jewel" venues like the Royal Albert Hall, as well as local institutions across the UK.

Applicants will have to demonstrate their contribution to wider economic growth to access a grant or loan.

Arts and culture industry representatives have warned that the restrictions and closures created by the pandemic have left many venues on the brink of financial collapse.

Adrian Vinken, chief executive of the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he couldn't say if the new financial support would be enough to stop up to 100 jobs being lost at his venue.

According to the government, the package represents the "biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture".

Johnson said: "This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down."

The government is yet to confirm detailed plans for the reopening of performing arts venues.

'Biggest step yet'

The latest step in the easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England on Saturday saw businesses like pubs, restaurants and cinemas welcoming customers back for the first time in more than three months.

Johnson described it as the "biggest step yet on the road to recovery". However, he also warned of the risks associated with the public becoming complacent about social distancing, adding that he would "not hesitate" to reintroduce restrictions if there is a second spike in Covid-19 cases.

"The success of these businesses, the livelihoods of those who rely on them and ultimately the economic health of the whole country is dependent on every single one of us acting responsibly," the prime minister said.

England's chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, warned of the inherent risk of the virus spreading in settings like pubs and restaurants.

"There's no doubt these are environments whose principal job it is to bring people together. That's a great thing to do socially, but it's also a great thing from the virus's point of view," he said.

In the event that the easing of restrictions leads to fresh coronavirus outbreaks, Johnson said the government would respond with "targeted" local actions like data monitoring, testing and possibly regional lockdowns, rather than "blanket" national measures.

Reopening reinvigorates FTSE

Stock markets responded positively to the reopening of businesses across England over the weekend. The FTSE 100 recovered from its 1.5% drop on Friday with a jump of more than 2% at the start of trading today.

There were similar trends in Europe, with the CAC 40 in France up by more than 1.8% towards the end of the morning session and Germany's DAX index rising by 2%.

Markets rose despite the acceleration of the coronavirus outbreak around the world. In the US, states like Florida and Texas were forced to put the brakes on their plans to reopen as the number of confirmed virus cases continued to increase.

Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at currency firm Oanda, said: "Financial markets have long shown a herd immunity to the Covid-19 pandemic, although the headlines across the weekend gave no solace to the real world."

Market futures indicated a higher opening on Wall Street, which was closed on Friday ahead of the July 4 holiday.

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