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NEW YORK (AP) — The Metropolitan Opera is requiring audience and employees to receive COVID-19 booster shots for entry starting Jan. 17.

“With the news of the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant,” the Met said in an email to the company on Wednesday, “it is clear that we must now take additional steps to protect our community.”

Earlier Wednesday, vaccinated children were welcomed back to Lincoln Center for the first time in about two years; they watched a special presentation of “Cinderella” on a school filed trip.

The company said anyone not yet eligible to receive a booster shot will be allowed a two-week grace period after they become eligible.

The Met was closed from March 2020 until September because of the pandemic, canceling 276 performances plus an international tour. It has drawn approximately 160,000 for its first 59 performances this season, which runs until June. Average capacity has been 73%; ticket distribution has been limited to 3,700, down from 4,000, with the first few rows and standing room not sold.

Up to 3,000 people are employed by the Met on performance days.

“Our population is far larger than any other not-for-profit performing arts organization in the country, which is why we have to be in the vanguard of health and safety,” Met general manager Peter Gelb said in a statement.

The company mandated vaccinations for employees last summer and has required proof of vaccination for the audience since the season began.