A number of museums, galleries and heritage sites have been forced to close early for Christmas as the Omicron variant drives a new surge of Covid infections.
The Natural History Museum in London has announced that it will close from 21 December until 28 December due to a shortage of front-of-house staff.
In a statement, the museum said: “We have made the difficult decision to close our South Kensington site from Tuesday 21 December due to front of house staff shortages which have been impacted by Covid-19 infections and isolation requirements. We will remain closed to the public until reopening on Tuesday 28 December, when we hope that staffing levels will have recovered.
“If you have bought tickets for wildlife photographer of the year or Fantastic Beasts: the Wonder of Nature for these dates, these will be cancelled and refunded. If you have bought tickets to one of our events we will email you with further information.”
It added: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly but the safety of staff and visitors must always come first.”
The museum’s ice rink is operated by a separate contractor and will remain open.
The Museum of the Home announced yesterday that will close on Thursday 23 December for the festive period due to staff shortages. The museum plans to reopen on 4 January.
The National Army Museum in London also confirmed that has closed until the new year. The museum tweeted: “We have taken the difficult decision to close to the public over the festive period due to the impact of Covid-19.”
The museum will reopen on 5 January.
Other London museums that have announced early closure include the Foundling Museum, the Wellcome Collection and the Museum of Richmond, all of which will remain shut until the new year.
The British Museum says it is staying open but may be forced to close some galleries at short notice.
The Soldiers of Oxfordshire (Sofo) Museum in Woodstock closed on Sunday 19 December. The museum said: “We've had to move to a #PlanB of our own - we now close from 5pm Sunday 19th December 2021, but you should still be able to visit us again from 4th January 2022.”
Edinburgh Castle was also forced to close temporarily due to a Covid outbreak among staff, which meant it had to cancel its Castle of Light: Hidden Treasures event and Christmas afternoon teas over the weekend. The castle is hoping to reopen this week following a deep clean.
Liverpool’s Maritime Museum has had to shut its archives centre this week due to staff illness. The centre will be closed for Christmas and reopen on 5 January.
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that a further £30m will be made available via the Culture Recovery Fund to help cultural organisations recover from loss of income during the crucial Christmas period. The funding will support the sector through the winter to March 2022.
The devolved administrations will receive around £150m of funding through the Barnett formula, comprising around £80m for the Scottish Government, £50m for the Welsh Government and £25m for the Northern Ireland Executive.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that additional Covid restrictions are unlikely to be put in place before Christmas, though an announcement of new measures could be made in the days afterwards.
A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that the Museum of the Home is already closed. In fact it is closing on 23 December.