The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that museums and libraries across England can reopen from 17 May as part of a four-step “roadmap” to lifting lockdown. The plan for lifting Covid-19 restrictions was announced earlier today by Johnson in the House of Commons; if there is no resurgence in new infections, the Prime Minister hopes to lift all lockdown restrictions by 21 June.
The official guidance issued by the UK government states that “indoor entertainment, such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas” can open from 17 May at the earliest, in “step three” of the strategy. A spokesman for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed the date to The Art Newspaper following confusion among media outlets reporting that museums could reopen in the second phase, starting from 12 April (which applies to public buildings such as libraries and community centres).
Museums were closed for most of the past year as the pandemic took hold, with English institutions shut for several months from the spring during the first lockdown. The culture sector largely reopened over the summer but institutions in tier three, the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions, were forced to close down in early November. Some museums reopened in December but all institutions were forced to close on 30 December when another national lockdown was put in place, leading to further revenue losses and ongoing disruption of exhibition schedules.
Commercial galleries come under non-essential retail and will therefore be permitted to open from 12 April.