Plans to bring back live sport spectators from October 1 are due to be “paused” by the government due to the surge in coronavirus cases.
Michael Gove today said the plans to return people to stadiums and outdoor venues would be put on hold as England faces new restrictions due to Covid-19.
Boris Johnson is expected to spell out restrictions at 12.30pm in the House of Commons and at 8pm in a TV address.
Restrictions will also include telling all English hospitality venues to close at 10pm starting on Thursday, and making them table service only by law.
And people are now being told to work from home again where possible, in a Tory U-turn after seven weeks of trying to get people back to offices.
Cabinet Office minister Mr Gove sounded the death knell for pilot schemes which would have returned live sport fans to stadiums through the winter.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve been piloting some open air venues and we do want to be able in due course to allow people to return to watch football and other sporting events.
“We need to be cautious at the moment and I think a mass reopening at this stage wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Mr Gove said live sport involved not just spectating but also using transport, buying food, passing through turnstiles and a “huge amount of social mixing.”
Asked directly if plans to return fans to stadiums would still happen from October 1 he replied: “No.
“It was the case that we were looking at a staged programme of more people returning.
“We’re looking at how we can for the moment pause that programme.
“But what we do want to do is make sure we can, as and when circumstances allow, get more people back.”
The scheme – as well as the return of larger audiences in arts venues like theatres – had already been thrown into doubt by Boris Johnson earlier this month.
The PM had said he would “review” plans to return audiences to stadiums from October 1, and “revise” plans to pilot larger audiences in arts venue.
Mr Johnson told a previous No10 press conference: “That doesn’t mean we’re going to scrap the programme entirely.
“It just means we are going to review and abridge it, and the Culture Secretary will say more shortly.”
At the time of his previous announcement, crowds were due to be limited to 1,000 people at these pilots and they were due to be scrapped entirely in areas of high virus.