Vaccine passports for nightclubs would be a “financial disaster,” according to industry leaders; Boris Johnson will unveil a winter plan to address England’s COVID crisis; Union says the Army should be brought in to reduce A&E wait times.
The health secretary has announced that plans to introduce COVID-19 vaccine passports for entry into nightclubs and large events in England will be scrapped.
“We shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it,” Sajid Javid said.
“I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead,” he said after the government reviewed the evidence.
The plan, which has been criticized by venues and some MPs, was expected to be introduced at the end of this month.
It would be kept “in reserve” if it was needed in the autumn or winter, according to No 10.
People would have had to show proof of double vaccination, a negative test, or finishing self-isolating after a positive PCR test to gain access to clubs and other crowded events under the scheme.
The Night Time Industries Association warned that the plans could have crippled the industry and resulted in discrimination cases being filed against nightclubs.
It said in a statement:
“The double vaccine certification programme proposed by the government contained a number of challenges around deliverability, practicality, equality and potential discrimination. MVT has been describing those problems to Ministers and departments for the last two months, and we therefore welcome the decision to not move forward with this policy.
“It is important to reiterate that grassroots music venues want the tools to be able to create safe events. They are experts in risk mitigation, and there is ample evidence that working alongside the live community a great deal has already been achieved to reopen every venue safely.
“Our issue with double vaccination certification as a sole requirement of entry was that it was highly unlikely to achieve improved safety above and beyond those measures already in place and highly likely to create a two tier night time economy which divided venues and customers.
“We await formal confirmation from the government of the scrapping of these problematic passports.
“Meanwhile we continue to encourage everyone in the live music community to please take a test before attending an event, a personal approach to risk mitigation that is highly effective and makes a real difference to the safety of gigs.”
Since then, the industry group has praised the decision, saying it hopes businesses can now plan with more certainty and begin to rebuild the sector and regain customers’ trust.
The Music Venue Trust, which works to protect small-town music venues, applauded the news, calling COVID-19 vaccine passports “problematic.”
Conservative MPs on the Covid Recovery Group and the Liberal Democrats, whose leader Ed Davey called them “divisive, unworkable, and expensive,” were also opposed.
When asked if the government was “running scared” about the policy after criticism from its own backbenchers, Mr Javid denied it, claiming that COVID-19 vaccine passports were unnecessary due to other “wall of defense” measures such as high vaccine uptake, testing, surveillance, and new treatments.
According to the most recent government figures released on Sunday, there were 29,173 new cases of COVID-19 in the UK in the previous 28 days, with 56 deaths.
The government’s decision to eliminate vaccine passports appears to be a sharp U-turn.
Last week, Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the end of September was the best time to start the vaccine passport scheme for sites with large crowds because by then, everyone over the age of 18 would have received two vaccinations and it was the “best way” to keep the night industry open.