As cinemas in Wales prepare to reopen on Monday, the Welsh Conservative Shadow COVID Recovery Minister, Darren Millar MS, has called for the government to ease social distancing guidelines for filmgoers.
Social distancing measures currently in place are expected to significantly reduce audience numbers and safety measures including reconfiguring seats and deep cleaning after every viewing will push up operating costs.
Revenue will also suffer as current government guidance only allows takeaway food or food to be consumed in an outdoors space to be sold in cinemas.
Film production around the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic and this has created additional problems due to a shortage of new content.
The summer blockbusters that cinemas usually depend upon to generate cash at this time of year are also being pulled by the major studios.
The Walt Disney Company has delayed and postponed the release of three major films. The new Avatar and Star Wars films have been pushed back a year, while Mulan has been removed from schedules completely. Warner Brothers has also postponed the August release of Christopher Nolan’s thriller Tenet.
“Ministers have chosen to ignore desperate calls from cinemas and other businesses in Wales regarding their viability while current social distancing requirements remain in place,” Mr Millar said.
“Instead of more dithering, I urge the Welsh Government to look again at relaxing social distancing requirements, with mitigating measures, in order to protect jobs and livelihoods across Wales.”
Although cinemas in England could reopen from 4 July, major chains Cineworld and Vue both announced they wouldn’t start reopening until 31 July.
Odeon cinemas will open with a staggered rollout throughout July and August.
Public Health Wales has reported there have been no new deaths due to coronavirus. There has been just one death from the virus this week.
The total number of people who have died with the virus remains 1,548.
There were 30 new confirmed cases, meaning 17,105 people have now tested positive for Covid-19 since March.
Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Free flu vaccine programme extended
More people in Wales will qualify for the free flu vaccine programme this winter amid concern of the consequences of Covid-19 circulating alongside influenza.
Minster for Health Vaughan Gething has announced the eligibility age for the free flu vaccine will be lowered from 65 to 50 and households of people shielding from coronavirus will also be included in the programme.
The first phase of the programme will make the flu vaccine available to people over 65, pregnant women and people with medical conditions, before being extended to the over 50s and members of the household of those shielding.
Additional supplies of the nasal spray flu vaccine offered to children will be used to maximise uptake in the vaccination programme offered to 2- and 3-year olds, and to all children in primary schools.
The government is also prioritising increasing the uptake of the vaccine among in health and social care workers.
“This winter more than ever we need to protect the most vulnerable in our community and continue to protect our NHS,” Mr Gething said.
“By extending the flu vaccine to more people than ever before we can help prevent people becoming ill and reduce pressure on the NHS.”
Eight cases of Covid-19 confirmed at Ebbw Vale food plant
Public Health Wales has confirmed eight cases of coronavirus at Zorba Delicacies Ltd food processing plant in Ebbw Vale.
Tests were carried out on 476 employees after five people working at the plant were diagnosed with the virus earlier in the week.
Those confirmed three further cases of Covid-19 and one probable infection.
Dr Rhianwen Stiff, consultant in communicable disease control for PHW, said: “This is a very good outcome and we wish to thank Zorba Delicacies Ltd for their full cooperation.
“Investigations are ongoing as to the possible cause of the incident and no firm conclusions can be reached at this early stage. No outbreak has been declared.”
There have been coronavirus infections detected at three other food processing plants in Wales in the last month.
Rowan Foods plant in Wrexham has recorded 309 infections and there have also been 221 workers infected at the 2 Sisters factory in Llangefni.
Kepak meat processing plant in Merthyr has recorded 139 cases dating back to April.