UK theme parks may be forced to close as the government prepares to ban gatherings of more than 500 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
A government source has told the BBC that the plans are being drawn up to ‘ease the pressure on emergency services’.
The main season for UK theme parks was scheduled to begin later this month, with Blackpool Pleasure Beach already having opened this year.
It is not yet clear if the opening of theme parks will be explicitly included in the legislation; however, with pubs and bars expected to be included in the ban, the inclusion of theme parks appears likely.
Events with more than 500 people are already being banned in Scotland by the regional government there next week.
The BBC quoted the government source as saying: “There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible.
“We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.”
A number of European countries have effectively locked down all non-essential public movement, notably Italy and Spain.
The new UK bans on public gatherings are expected to come into effect as early as next weekend, the BBC reports.
The Times newspaper has reported that the new legislation could apply for up to two years, but that organisations would be ‘compensated’ by the government.
Alton Towers, which is scheduled to open next Saturday, last week said it was still planning on opening.
A spokesperson said: “The health and safety of our guests and our staff is always our top priority and we will take all necessary precautions to ensure their continued welfare.
“We have restricted employee travel to higher-risk countries, implemented enhanced cleaning regimes at our attractions and informed our teams of coronavirus symptoms, as well as the importance of good hygiene practices.
“Like many businesses, we continue to monitor the situation closely and are in regular contact with local authorities so we may respond quickly to any developments.”