U.K. Film and TV Production to Continue as Chief Medical Officer Warns of ‘Worst Weeks of Pandemic’

As the U.K. advises stricter measures to control the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic, film and TV production won’t be affected.

There aren’t currently any plans to shut down production, Variety has confirmed with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the government body that deals with the entertainment industry.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS [National Health Service],” England chief medical officer professor Chris Whitty told the BBC. “What we need to do before the vaccines have had their effects, because it’s going to take several weeks before that happens, is we need to really double down. This is everybody’s problem.”

“Any single unnecessary contact you have with someone is a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person,” Whitty added. “So you’ve absolutely got to, we’ve all got to, as individuals, help the NHS help our fellow citizens by minimizing the amount of unnecessary contacts we have.”

The U.K. is under lockdown and is expected to remain so until at least March. However, film and television productions are exempt provided they work in strict COVID-safe bubbles.

Guidance from the British Film Commission, updated Jan. 6, states: “Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to travel to their workplace. This covers all aspects of the film and television production process, including scouting and recces. It includes travelling for work purposes within England and internationally. Staying in a hotel for work purposes is permitted. Filming can continue to take place in the premises of businesses that are closed to the general public due to the lockdown. This includes work on films and television programs.”

Guidance from the U.K. Screen Alliance, the body that issues guidelines for the post-production industry, updated Jan. 8, states: “As many post-production and VFX activities can be performed remotely, it is now necessary on a case-by-case basis to determine if an employee, or indeed a client, is allowed by law to leave their home to attend the workplace.”

The Alliance has provided a non-exhaustive list of cases where a post-production technician may be required to travel to the workplace. These include: operations that require the use of specialized environments, which can’t easily or inexpensively be provided in a home setting, and/or use highly calibrated audiovisual equipment to provide critical appraisal of sound or picture quality; those that require reliable high bandwidth internet connections that are beyond available domestic broadband provision; quick turnaround or close-to-deadline jobs that could be disrupted due to remote working; and confidentiality reasons, or lack of domestic space scenarios.

Meanwhile, the U.K. has begun mass vaccinations, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying on Monday that two million jabs have been administered so far. The country recorded 54,940 new infections on Sunday with 563 new deaths. More than three million people have been infected and total deaths have crossed 81,000.

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