Coronavirus: Charities shut up shop as virus spreads

Organisations including the Royal Opera House, the National Trust and the RNLI have all said they are closing down public buildings

The Royal Opera House in London (Photograph: Nando Machado/Alamy)
The Royal Opera House in London (Photograph: Nando Machado/Alamy)

Arts, culture and heritage charities across the UK have closed their doors as the coronavirus pandemic escalates amid mounting fears of a catastrophic financial impact on the sector.

Covid-19 has infected almost 200,000 people worldwide, and 55 people in the UK have died as of Tuesday morning, with the Prime Minister last week warning that many more deaths from the virus were likely in the weeks ahead.

The government yesterday told the public to socially distance themselves from others to prevent the virus spreading further.

This has led to numerous charitable organisations in the cultural and heritage sectors closing their doors as part of the attempt to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The National Trust said in a statement that it would close all its properties from Friday, but would allow people to visit the surrounding land owned by the charity. 

“Over the coming weeks we will do all that we can to keep on providing public benefit through caring for places and giving people access wherever possible,” the trust’s statement said.

“While we will close our indoor areas to help fight the spread of coronavirus, we recognise that people are likely to need access to open space.”

The Royal National Lifeboat Institute said it would close its shops, museums and visitor centres with immediate effect. 

“Our lifeboat stations remain operational and we will continue to respond to those in need, but will not be open to visitors,” the charity’s statement added.

Some major arts institutions warned of a severe financial impact from having to close because of the coronavirus.

The Royal Opera House asked ticket holders to donate where possible to support its workforce during the next few weeks.

“Our employees, permanent and casual, are reliant on the income which we derive through ticket purchases,” the statement from the ROH said.

“Without performances it is inevitable that we will become more reliant on philanthropic support and charitable donations.

“Where possible, we ask that you consider donating the value of your tickets to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation rather than requesting a credit note or refund.”

The British Film Institute emailed members today informing them it was closing its facilities on the South Bank in London.

“Our teams work incredibly hard on developing our programmes, and the decision to close the venue and cancel all events has not been taken lightly, particularly as the financial implications on us as a charity are considerable,” the BFI’s statement said. 

“Please be assured that all ticket holders for cancelled events have options on refunds and we will be contacting people in due course. However, by not requesting a refund you would be making an exceptionally generous and much appreciated charitable donation to the BFI during these unprecedented times.”

The Wellcome Trust closed its buildings, including the Wellcome Collection museum near Euston, London, to prevent a more disruptive, sudden closure at some point in the near future.

But the charity said it would continue its work on medical research remotely.

The National Theatre has also closed for the next four weeks of performances, with the potential for a further extension if required.

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