How’s this for an early Christmas present? As the sudden surge of the Omicron variant leaves the world reeling, the U.K.’s department for digital, culture, media, and sport is doubling its current round of emergency funding for the arts to £60 million ($80.4 million).

“We understand how devastating the uncertainty caused by Omicron has been. This new funding… will support the sector as we together face this difficult time,” Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer who approved the funding, said in a statement. “We’ve supported the cultural sector throughout the pandemic, and we’ll continue to do so.”

Now, an additional £30 million ($40 million) is available to museums, cinemas, theaters, and heritage sites across the country through Arts Council England. The government has also extended the deadline to apply for the aid by an extra week, to January 18, 2022. Grants range from £25,000 ($33,500) to £3 million ($3.9 million), with limits for organizations that have already received funding in earlier rounds.

The funding is part of a larger £1 billion ($1.3 billion) support package previously greenlit by Sunak, which also includes £1.5 million ($2 million) earmarked for creative freelancers impacted by the pandemic. The nonprofit Theatre Artists Fund and Help Musicians will each distribute £650,000 ($87,000) directly to freelancers, while the Artists Information Company, a charity for visual artists, will hand out £200,000 ($260,000).

Atrium of the British Museum. Photo by Negative Space for Pexels.

Atrium of the British Museum. Photo by Negative Space for Pexels.

“Christmas is a very important time of year for so many of our brilliant arts and culture organizations who have now found themselves impacted by the Omicron variant,” culture secretary Nadine Dorries said in a statement. “It is absolutely right that we support them through this challenging time, which is why we’ve doubled the emergency funding available from the Culture Recovery Fund.”

The government first issued emergency cultural funding in July 2020, with a £1.57 billion ($1.9 billion) bailout for the struggling sector. An additional £76 million ($98 million) followed in the fall, and £485.8 million (around $677 million) this spring.

So far, the Culture Recovery Fund has distributed more than £1.5 billion ($2 billion) to around 5,000 organizations nationwide. The most recent round of funding went out in November, with £100 million ($134.5 million) split between close to 1,000 cultural organizations, including the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House and the London Transport Museum.

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