Nightclubs could be shut until there is a coronavirus vaccine, a Tory minister hinted today as she admitted thousands of jobs will be lost for a “long time”.
Gillian Keegan admitted it is “hard to see how nightclubs will open until we have some kind of long term way to deal with coronavirus.”
And the Skills Minister confessed jobs that don’t “fit” with the virus “may take a long time to come back”.
It comes as the nightlife industry braces for a major blow when the furlough scheme ends on October 31.
From November 1, only “viable” jobs where someone can work at least a third of their hours will be supported – and employers will have to contribute 55% of a worker’s wages for just 33% of their hours.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has made clear he cannot save every job but experts are warning the new Job Support Scheme will throw whole industries to the wolves.
Ministers today unveiled a pledge to give every adult in England without A-level equivalent qualifications the right to a free college course from next April.
Currently these courses are free up to the age of 23.
But it will only be available for courses “which are shown to be valued by employers”. A full list of available courses is due next month.
Nightclubs are one of the few sectors that remain completely shut by order of the government – while even some theatres have partly reopened.
Asked what would happen to them, Ms Keegan told Sky News: “It’s difficult to see how you can have a nightclub operating with coronavirus in any sort of enjoyable way.”
Asked if those jobs would be gone, she replied: “I think for now I guess there is. [sic]
“We’ve had six months on furlough which has been there to try to protect those parts of the economy that can start moving again.
“But it is hard to see how nightclubs will open until we have some kind of long term way to deal with coronavirus. That is for sure true.”
She went on: “It is clear that some of those jobs may take a long time to come back because they don’t fit with the virus.”
Asked if she was saying nightclubs would not start again until there is a vaccine, she replied: “It’s difficult to see – I’m not saying that, but I think it’s difficult to see how you could go to a nightclub within the rule of six.
“How can you socially distance and have a good time in a nightclub?
“I think it is difficult to see how we could keep coronavirus under control indoors in those kinds of situations, which is why they haven’t been opened yet.”
Told this was a sector that contributed tens of millions of pounds, she replied: “There is no doubt coronavirus has had a devastating effect on the economy.”
It came as clubbers were pictured enjoying a night out as life returns to normal in Wuhan – where the virus is thought to have originated.
Young people are shown packed close together on the dancefloor in the Chinese city, where the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to have originated.
Officials say there have been no community transmissions in Wuhan – where a mass testing programme was launched for the city’s entire 11 million population – since May. And China claims to have gone 33 days without any new cases.
It comes after the government passed a law, without MPs’ approval, against dancing in pubs and bars or singing in groups of more than six.
While dancing and singing is not itself illegal, there will be a legal duty on pub landlords in England to stop punters dancing, or singing in groups over six.
Music will also be banned from being played at over 85 decibels.
Pub landlords who fail to comply can be handed a £1,000 on-the-spot fine, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders.