At least five national attractions including the Natural History Museum and Edinburgh Castle have closed because of the surge in Covid cases.
The start of the Christmas school holidays is usually one of the busiest times at the Natural History Museum but it will be closed from Tuesday “due to an unforeseen staff shortage”.
Other museums closed because of Covid include London’s Wellcome Collection in Euston, the National Army Museum in Chelsea, and the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury. The British Museum remains open but warned visitors that some galleries may have to close at short notice.
The Natural History Museum, the second most visited museum in the UK after Tate Modern, said it would remain closed for at least a week.
The Museum at South Kensington will be closed from 21-27 December, due to an unforeseen staff shortage.
We plan to reopen on Tuesday 28 December.
You can also book new tickets for a future date on our website.
— Natural History Museum (@NHM_London) December 20, 2021
“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. This is not a decision we have taken lightly but the safety of staff and visitors must always come first,” it said.
“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.”
The museum’s ice rink, operating outside the building this year for the last time, will remain open.
Edinburgh Castle, the second most visited attraction in Scotland, announced a temporary closure on Sunday that remains in place.
In a series of tweets, it said: “We are sorry to let you know that we will temporarily close the castle as of 4pm today [Sunday] following a number of staff members testing positive for coronavirus. All members of staff identified are now self-isolating.
“Our Castle of Light: Hidden Treasures event will be cancelled tonight, as are our Christmas afternoon teas tomorrow [Monday]. The castle will be closed to allow deep cleaning to take place, and we hope to reopen on 21 December.
“We would like to reassure visitors that robust physical distancing and hygiene measures have been in place on site. We understand how disappointing this closure will be for many, but we always put the safety of our staff and visitors first.”
On Friday the Wellcome Collection in Euston, north London, announced it was having to close until further notice after a surge of cases. It said: “Due to the increasing Covid-19 risk, for the safety of staff and visitors we are currently closed until further notice. We will continue to monitor the situation and government advice, and we will keep you updated on our website and social media channels.”
Due to the increasing Covid-19 risk, we will be closing to staff and visitors from Friday 17 December at 18.00 until further notice. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and government advice, and keep you updated here and on our website. https://t.co/1qX4K06nNu pic.twitter.com/bXR7AMVsis
— Wellcome Collection (@ExploreWellcome) December 17, 2021
The Foundling Museum said it had taken the “difficult decision” to close over the Christmas period and would not open again until 4 January. The National Army Museum said would be closed until 5 January “due to the impact of Covid-19”.
The Museum Association’s journal reported that many museums had postponed or cancelled events and were rethinking their plans for the new year.
A source at an unnamed London museum said it was struggling to keep all of its galleries open after a Covid outbreak among staff.
The source was quoted as saying: “It feels a bit irresponsible for us to still be open and interacting with the public as some have tested negative lateral flow in the morning then positive halfway through their work day. We are dropping like flies and I really don’t see how they stay open for the next week.”
Sharon Heal, director of the Museums Association, said: “Omicron has had an impact on museum staff because it is so transmissive. A large proportion of people who work in museums work in public facing positions, so they are vulnerable to picking up Covid.”
She said the closures are likely to have hit museum’s finances. Heal said: “Christmas and Easter are the two big seasons for museums in terms of visitors, events and retail. And all of that is going to be adversely impacted by the new variant. We would like to see some recognition from government that museums are being hit and that funding is needed.”