Andrew Lloyd Webber calls for trial on chemical to open up theatres

Andrew Lloyd Webber calls for ‘game-changing’ chemical to be pumped into theatres, schools and restaurants to open up Britain again amid Covid-19 pandemic

  • Andrew Lloyd Webber is lobbying ministry to trial a ‘game-changing’ chemical
  • Covid-combatting Triethylene glycol could be used to open up indoor venues 
  • But he has accused ‘frightened’ health and safety officials of blocking the plan
  • Apart from a small run in between lockdowns, theatres and clubs have been largely closed since last March

A ‘game-changing’ chemical that could be pumped into schools, theatres and restaurants to remove coronavirus should be urgently trialled, Andrew Lloyd Webber said yesterday.

The theatre impresario revealed that his team has spent months lobbying ministers to investigate whether triethylene glycol (TEG) could be used to help open up indoor venues.

Despite interest from Downing Street, he accused ‘frightened’ health and safety officials of blocking the left-field plan without proper consideration.

Lord Lloyd Webber, 72, said he contacted No 10 about TEG last year after learning that tests had been successfully carried out at a Broadway theatre.

Lord Lloyd Webber, 72, (pictured with wife Madeleine Gurdon) has lobbied ministers to trial a ‘game-changing’ chemical that could be pumped into schools, theatres and restaurants to remove coronavirus

Manufacturers of the chemical, which is found in ‘fogging’ used to sanitise theatres and concerts as well as a range of domestic products, claim it can ‘clean the air’ when continually sprayed in indoor areas.

The composer, whose long-running musical Cats has featured stars including Nicole Scherzinger, offered to test whether the substance can be used safely at his 2,300-seat London Palladium theatre, which successfully hosted a socially distanced pantomime in December.

His team claimed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was ‘set up and ready to go’ with a testing programme after his proposal.

However the proposed trials are said to have hit a brick wall when the Health and Safety Executive said it did not support such a move.

The composer said: ‘All we are is saying is, ‘Look, you should trial this’. Because if it is safe it could be a game-changer for schools and any form of indoor public space.’

Manufacturers of the chemical, which is found in ‘fogging’ used to sanitise theatres and concerts as well as a range of domestic products, claim it can ‘clean the air’ when continually sprayed in indoor areas. Pictured: The London Palladium with socially-distanced seating

Last year, the Government’s independent advisory body SAGE said there is ‘limited evidence’ that chemical sprays such as TEG effectively reduce airborne virus transmission.

It said TEG has not been tested on the coronavirus and its long-term use could lead to potential health effects. The body called for more evidence to be presented before the use of ‘continuous sprays’ was considered further.

A ministerial source said the Government was grateful for Lord Lloyd Webber’s ‘cutting-edge plan’ but that the HSE and Public Health England had ‘looked fairly’ at the proposal and felt there was not enough scientific backing.

Last month, an unregistered product containing TEG was given an emergency exception to be used in two US states. The US Environmental Protection Agency said that Grignard Pure could be used in indoor spaces in Georgia and Tennessee, claiming it could kill 98 per cent of airborne coronavirus.

The composer, whose long-running musical Cats has featured stars including Nicole Scherzinger (pictured), offered to test whether the substance can be used safely at his 2,300-seat London Palladium theatre, which successfully hosted a socially distanced pantomime in December

Lord Lloyd Webber, who has been leading West End efforts to sustain the industry, described feeling ‘frustrated’ at the inability to test the validity of the material. ‘When this came along, the obvious thing to do was to give it to the relevant people in government, he said.

‘To be absolutely fair, the government side is really quite interested. But it seems it has hit [a wall] with the health people once again. One is hitting a sort of reticence because people are so frightened of trying something that might be dangerous.’

An HSE spokesman said: ‘At present, the evidence from SAGE is that there is limited evidence that the use of chemical sprays such as TEG will be effective to clean the air and reduce airborne virus transmission risks in occupied spaces.

‘At the same time, there is the potential for respiratory or skin irritation for those exposed over a long period of time. We currently would not recommend using them without further evidence to support their safety and efficiency.’

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