PM's about-face on night club vaccine passports branded 'shambolic'

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Trade uproar: a survey from the Night-Time Industries Association recently found most late-night operators would not be using Covid-status certification upon reopening (image: Getty/Flashpop)
Trade uproar: a survey from the Night-Time Industries Association recently found most late-night operators would not be using Covid-status certification upon reopening (image: Getty/Flashpop)

Related tags Night time economy Government Legislation Health and safety

The night-time sector has hit back at the Government after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced proof of a double Covid jab would be made mandatory for club goers as of September.

The PM hosted a press conference last night (Monday 19 July), during which he appeared virtually given he is currently self-isolating after being in contact with health secretary, Sajid Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19.

Johnson said: “I should serve notice now that by the end of September – when all over 18s will have had the chance to be double jabbed – we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”

Earlier this month (July), a snap poll of more than 250 night-time businesses found eight-in-10 would not be asking for proof of vaccination​ as they reopened for the first time since last March yesterday (Monday 19 July).

Chaotic U-turn

Night-Time Industries Association conducted the survey and on the latest vaccine passport announcement, boss Michael Kill described the Government’s move as an “absolute shambles”.

“So, ‘freedom day’ for nightclubs lasted about 17 hours then," he said. "The announcement from the Prime Minister that Covid passports will be made mandatory for nightclubs in September comes after his health secretary said only one week ago that they would not be compulsory.

“Leaving aside the fact this is yet another chaotic U-turn that will leave nightclubs, which have been planning for reopening for months will now have to make more changes to the way they operate – this is still a bad idea.

“[Some] 80% of nightclubs have said they do not want to implement Covid passports, worrying about difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren’t subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments.”

“The Government’s own report into vaccine passports found they were more trouble than they’re worth – so what could possibly explain the about turn, just as millions across the UK experience their first taste of a night out in a year and a half…?”

Hammer blow

Nightclub group Rekom UK boss Peter Marks laid out his stance on the Government's change of heart.

He said: "To say we are disappointed by this Government's U-turn is an understatement.

"Jonathan Van Tam's talk of his party in his garden shed shows how little this Government and their scientists understand the modern club.

"Nightclubs have the best air ventilation systems in hospitality, retail and most other settings with air changes on average, every five minutes. Who else does that?

"We can sanitise and clean just like any other venue and there is no difference between a club and most pubs at midnight. It should be down to individual risk assessments in line with the specialist scientific advice we have received.

"We are no more than a political football. Mandatory Covid passports may make sense one day, once the entire adult population has been offered vaccines but does the Government really think this threat will entice the 'vaccine wary' to take their vaccine? They will just stay later in the pubs and hold their parties in their houses."

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls outlined the impact this will have on a sector that has been shut for almost a year and a half.

“This announcement comes as a hammer blow on a day when nightclubs, a sector that has been closed by the Government for 16 months, were finally given hope that they could start to trade viably and make progress toward rebuilding and paying off accrued debts," she said.

“Covid passports will be a costly burden that run the risk of creating flashpoints between staff and customers, as well as raising potential issues with equalities legislation and the handling of customer data.

“As recently as last week the Government asked us to work with them on a voluntary scheme, so this new policy is devastating and risks hitting these fragile businesses and derailing their recovery and costing thousands of jobs.”

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