Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Reuters)
LONDON – Theatres in London's West End and around the UK shut after Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to avoid such venues as coronavirus spreads.
"You should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues," he said.
However, he stopped short of forcing venues to close, leaving some in the affected industries in limbo. The Society of London Theatre, which represents the West End, said theatres would close from Monday night until further notice.
Sister organisation UK Theatre said its 165 venues around the country would take the same step.
Speaking during his first daily news briefing on Monday, Johnson said the government advice was that "public venues such as theatres should no longer be visited".
He added: "The proprietors of those venues are taking the logical steps that you would imagine, you are seeing the change happen already.
"As for enforcement, we have the powers if necessary but I don't believe it will be necessary to use those powers."
Johnson said that from Tuesday mass gatherings were something "we are now moving emphatically away from".
He also said people should now avoid "non-essential" travel and contact with others.
But many figures from the worlds of theatre, music and other live entertainment were angry that Johnson advised people to stay away while not forcing venues to close, which could have given them financial protection.
UK Music, which represents the music industry, said the hundreds of likely gig and festival cancellations would cause "immense damage", and Johnson's comments risked exacerbating the problem.
"The prime minister's latest advice on mass gatherings has resulted in huge uncertainty and confusion over what exactly it will mean for the music industry," acting chief executive Tom Kiehl said.
"The government must spell out whether there will be a formal ban, when that might come into effect, which venues and events will be impacted and how long the measures will remain in place.
"The virus is having a catastrophic impact on the UK music industry and will threaten many jobs and businesses across our right across our sector," he said.