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London’s National Gallery.
London’s National Gallery.

British Museums and Galleries to Close in Accordance with Second Lockdown

UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Saturday announced that British museums and galleries must close from November 5 through at least December 2 as part of a new lockdown in England amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country. The lockdown plan is to be voted on in the House of Commons November 4 but will almost certainly be approved.

The news came as a blow, as both galleries and institutions have been struggling to regain their financial footing in the wake of the March-through-May closure brought on by the initial arrival of the coronavirus on British shores. Though the government delivered to the arts and culture sector an aid package of roughly $2 billion this past summer, the impact of a second closure is likely to be a hard one, as arts organizations remained on their heels throughout the fall owing to a drastic drop in tourism and the fiscally chilling effect of such necessary measures as limited capacity. Additionally, there is no guarantee that the lockdown will not be extended past the current deadline, as scientists reported that cases of the virus are spiking beyond even the braced-for “reasonable worst-case” scenario.

Institutions and galleries in Scotland are not affected by the order and remain open as of this time; also outside the ruling are Wales, where arts organizations are currently scheduled to reopen November 9 following a closure of just over two weeks, and Ireland, where museums are closed until November 13 (Republic of Ireland) or December 1 (Northern Ireland). One relatively bright spot: Rishi Sunak, chancellor for the exchequer, has announced that the UK’s job-retention program, which reimburses furloughed workers 80 percent of their salaries for hours not worked, will be extended for another month, through November.