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Today, the UK Cinema Association (UKCA) has published its set of coronavirus preventative measures for exhibitors to adhere to from July 4 when they begin re-opening.
This week, individual chains such as Odeon, Showcase and Cineworld have been outlining their plans. They have followed a similar path of increased hygiene, ventilation, distancing, managing capacity and online purchases, all of which are ratified in today’s UKCA document. Showcase even put together a short video illustrating how the procedures might look in practice.
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But what everyone has been waiting for is the answer to a crucial question – will face masks be mandatory? Cineworld workers, for example, have been petitioning the company this week after its CEO said it would make masks a requirement for staff but not for customers.
Today’s doc effectively confirms that masks will not be part of the government stipulations, paving the way for cinemas to begin operating without them. While there is still the possibility for minor tweaks to be made to the guidance ahead of July 4, I understand these will not be substantiative and are highly unlikely to include a significant reversal such as making masks essential.
The parts of the doc addressing the subject of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are re-printed below, I have bolded the crucial information.
“When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what you usually wear is not beneficial. This is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE.
“It is important to know that the evidence of the benefit of using a face covering to protect others is weak and the effect is likely to be small, therefore face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk, including minimising time spent in contact, using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work, and increasing hand and surface washing.
“These other measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace and government would therefore not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.
“Wearing a face covering is optional and is not required by law, including in the workplace. If you choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and wash your hands before putting them on and taking them off. You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification. Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one.”
The above guidance largely relates to workers in cinemas, rather than customers, but there are no separate protocols for audiences so this can be read as all-encompassing advice from the government.
For staff concerned about working at indoor venues without widespread use of PPE, today’s guidance will offer little comfort. In the U.S., major chains including Regal and AMC are going to require the wearing of masks for patrons. In the UK, there is of course still the possibility that individuals chains will decide to employ this policy.
The final 28-page document is not available to read openly yet but will be so today, I will update and include a link once it is. Earlier this week, the UK government relaxed its social distancing requirement from two meters to one, which effectively will allow cinemas to run at 50% capacity rather than 25%, a boost for business.
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