The grand plan to force clubs and some other venues in England to confirm that all customers have been vaccinated against COVID has been abandoned. This despite UK ministers very recently insisting that the plan was definitely going ahead – and a vote in the Scottish Parliament last week to proceed with the same plan north of the border.
In fact, only a week ago the UK’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi showed up on the BBC’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ to defend the decision to force clubs and other venues to check the COVID Passports of all customers, only allowing in those who have been double vaccinated.
Since clubs were able to reopen – and full capacity shows to return – in England back in July, it has been up to individual venues and events to decide whether or not to check the vaccination or COVID status of customers. However, as those COVID rules lifted in July, Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson said that clubs would be obliged to check COVID Passports from the end of September, adding that that obligation was being pushed back to the autumn to allow clubbers time to get vaccinated.
That plan was widely criticised by the night-time sector and many MPs, but on the last day of August a spokesperson for Johnson insisted that the plan was still definitely going ahead. Which was possibly the first clue that it was definitely going to be abandoned. But not before Zahawi was forced to defend the Prime Minister’s position on the telly.
It was back on the ‘Andrew Marr Show’ yesterday that the government confirmed the change of plan. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said “we shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it” and “I’m pleased to say we will not be going ahead”.
Javid expanded thus: “I’ve never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it. We’ve looked at it properly and, whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I’m pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports”.
Needless to say, Javid’s remarks were welcomed by the Night Time Industries Association, which has been lobbying hard against the COVID Passport requirement, and which said that the passing of such a requirement in Scotland last week meant that country’s already fragile night time economy is now on a “dangerous path to devastation”.
Commenting on the change of plan in England, NTIA boss Michael Kill said yesterday: “Following an intense political and public campaign by the NTIA, its members and wider industry supporters, we welcome the comments from the Health Secretary this morning regarding the government’s decision to scrap the planned mandate of COVID Passports from the end of September”.
“We hope that businesses will now be able to plan for the future with some degree of certainty, regain confidence from customers and the workforce, and start to rebuild a sector that has consistently been at the sharp end of this pandemic”, he added. “Our focus now is to ensure that the Chancellor’s October budget allows us the financial space to rebuild and for the industry to maintain its exemplary record in support of the public health strategy keeping our staff and our customers safe”.
Meanwhile, Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Dayvd said: “The double vaccine certification programme proposed by the government contained a number of challenges around deliverability, practicality, equality and potential discrimination. Music Venue Trust 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”, he added. “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”, he concluded. “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”.
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